Ictu doubts over aspects of plan for recovery


THE IRISH Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) has said it is disappointed with aspects of the Government’s new proposals for economic recovery, including the scale of its new subsidy scheme to support jobs that are at risk.

However, speaking after a meeting of Ictu’s executive council yesterday, its general secretary David Begg said the Government proposals were “the only show in town”.

Mr Begg said union members would not expect it to walk away when it could influence events. The Ictu did not have sufficient information to make a final judgment on the proposals and would be seeking clarifications.

The newly-appointed director general of the employers’ body Ibec, Danny McCoy, said the Government was certainly moving in the right direction with its proposals for a social partnership agreement on economic recovery.

However, he said the pace was too slow, and the quantum of funding earmarked at the moment was not sufficient.

He said at this point the Government proposals were “still partial” and needed more work.

“I think the emphasis on getting people into employment and creating work in the economy, whatever form that work takes, is going to be a crucial part of the mix for getting us out of the current impasse.

“So I would be hopeful that we are moving in the right direction but the pace has been very slow and frustrating.

“I think from the business community we were very supportive of efforts to get the economy stabilised but the pace is far too slow and we really need an engagement that is more intense and has quicker results.”

The history of wage subsidies had not been great in other societies and that it would “be a challenge for Ireland to get it right”.

As part of its package of proposals for an economic recovery deal, which were given to the social partners on Tuesday evening, the Government said up to €1 billion could eventually be made available to fund job-protection measures.

A central part of the new strategy would be the establishment of a new Temporary Employment Subsidy Scheme to assist up to 30,000 workers whose jobs are in jeopardy.

Under this plan companies in a number of sectors could receive subsidies of up €200 per employee per week to assist in keeping staff in work.

Initially the Government said that €250 million would be earmarked for this project. However, it later told unions that a €1 billion allocation was achievable if the measures proved to be effective.

The Government has also proposed to invest €100 million annually for three years in a new pension insolvency payment scheme. This would provide additional top-up payments for pensioners in cases of “double insolvency” where both companies and pension funds are in financial trouble.

Mr Begg said there had been concerns raised at the Ictu meeting yesterday about the scale, scope and application of the measures proposed, and he added that these needed refining.

He said the council had voiced unhappiness that the Government’s new subsidy scheme had been limited to the manufacturing and internationally-traded services sectors.

He said he could see no prima facie reason for the exclusion of other sectors such as construction and services.

Mr Begg said there were also concerns at the proposal to suspend a review of the minimum wage until 2011.

However, he said it would continue to be a floor for wage formation in the economy.