Huge drop in Covid-19 Payment shows people are going back to work

26 May 2020

The drop of over 35,000 in claimants for the €350 Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment shows people are going back to work, said Labour’s Ged Nash, and reiterated that plans by FG and FF to cut it for the lowest paid workers are wrong.

Deputy Nash, Labour’s Employment Affairs and Social Protection spokesperson said:

“With over 35,000 claimants of the €350 Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment due to get their last payment this week, it shows that despite the welfare cheats messaging coming from government, that people are going back to work when they can.

“It would be premature and wrong for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to force through cuts to this vital income support now. With a crunch vote due in the Dáil on Thursday we need to know if enough money will be provided to the Department to keep paying the €350 Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment in the weeks ahead.That has not been confirmed yet. 

“In the middle of an economic crisis it is revealing to see millionaires calling on people to be forced to take up minimum wage positions. Let’s remember that one of those fast food operators calling for this, took a case to the High Court that led to the destruction of the old JLC system – a system that once ensured restaurant workers were paid a wage they could live on.

“The €350 payment is still less than what someone would earn working 40 hours a week full time on the minimum wage of €10.10 an hour. Too many of those making decisions in Ireland and calling for cuts don’t seem to have any sense of what it is like to live on low pay.

“That’s why it is time once and for all that we tackled the low pay model that prevails for too many economic sectors in our country. We need a living wage and a legal right to workplace representation and collective bargaining. 

“Thousands of people who rely on part time hours, irregular and precarious shift patterns, and seasonal work will be impacted by any cut and with large parts of the tourism, hospitality and retail sectors closed they have no job to go too. This is not their fault. 

“We have an economic crisis now due to the pandemic shutdown. The economy was placed in an induced coma to stop the spread of Covid-19 and the PUP and the Wage Subsidy Schemes were put in place to support incomes and businesses. 

“The €350 level was seen as the rate that people needed to live on, based on the kinds of wages those in the most affected sectors ordinarily earned. Those sectors are a long way from coming back and the payment should not be cut now. The same bills are still there with rent, utilities and all the other costs of living.

“Let’s not forget we are talking about people who were in employment until the State itself shut down the economy. These were people who were working, who wanted to work and who in my experience want to get back to work as soon as possible. It’s a bit much and is utterly divisive to be beating the welfare cheats drum at this time.

“What’s all the more bizarre is that it’s likely such a move to cut the payment will not even save much money for the State as people will be moved to other social welfare payments and then will be likely to move on to rent supplement and HAP, become eligible for medical cards and other benefits, or may seek to retrain. This would be penny wise but pound foolish.”

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