Covid-19: Unions propose financial scheme to aid laid-off workers

Government under pressure from unions and bosses to support those who lose jobs

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions warned that a single worker with no children earning €25,000 could see a fall of 50% in salary. File photograph: Getty

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions warned that a single worker with no children earning €25,000 could see a fall of 50% in salary. File photograph: Getty

 

Proposals that would mean workers laid off due to the coronavirus outbreak receive payments up to an equivalent of €40,000 per year have been advanced by trade unions.

Under the initiative, submitted to the Government this week, the cost of a three-month wage subsidy scheme would be shared on a 75:25 per cent basis by the Government and employer.

Proposals produced by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) suggested the payment arrangements could be modelled on the existing scheme for maternity benefit. Under that arrangement the employer initially pays the full amount due, with the State’s contribution rebated by the Department of Social Protection.

The Government has come under pressure from trade unions and employers in recent days regarding the provision of enhanced financial support for the hundreds of thousands of workers who have or could lose their jobs as a result of the outbreak.

Employers’ group Ibec on Friday called on the Government to provide up to €4 billion in supports to households that have lost their regular income as a result of coronavirus.

Ibec said the Government was “behind the curve” internationally in terms of a fiscal response to the crisis and was in danger of letting a supply-side shock morph into a demand shock that would close businesses permanently.

It said the package, which equates to about 1.2 per cent of gross domestic product, could fund replacement rates of at least 70 per cent of net wages lost for 20 weeks for up to 500,000 workers.

Earlier this week the Ictu warned in a letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that even with mitigation measures already in place by the Government, a household with two adults and one child with a single income of about €45,000 – close to the average earnings for a full-time worker – could see a fall of nearly two-thirds in net income. Ictu also cautioned that a single worker with no children earning €25,000 could see a fall of about half.

Congress suggested if a wage subsidisation scheme – similar to that introduced in Denmark – was put in place here it should be targeted at companies affected economically as a consequence of Covid-19.

This scheme would apply for a temporary period of three months.

Fortnightly welfare payments

Meanwhile, social welfare recipients will be paid two weeks’ of their benefit every fortnight from Monday, while appointments for PPS numbers and public services cards have been suspended.

The emergency measures are being taken to reduce numbers arriving at post and Intreo offices, to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said recipients of 35 welfare schemes would start getting two weeks’ payment in one payment from next week, with beneficiaries of 19 others starting fortnightly collections the following week.

The move follows scenes of long queues at some post offices and Intreo premises this week where social distancing was not observed.