Nash Calls for a New Deal for a New Generation
Speaking as the Dail passed an increased budget for the Department of Social Protection Ged Nash TD said the crisis must be used to deliver a new deal for the generation affected by the economic impact of Covid-19, with investment in training and upskilling – including a reformed short-term working scheme – and that the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment must be extended until sectors are reopened.
Deputy Nash said:
“A horrible narrative has emerged in the last two weeks which says those who now have incomes of €350 thanks to the pandemic unemployment payment, and who are earning more than they did in January and February, are somehow cheats, scroungers and spongers.
“What the shutdown has shown is the preponderance of low pay in this country, with 23% of all workers on low pay, but we can address that.
“Looking at the Estimate being passed today it is clear the intention in coming months is to try to move people, one way or another, from the PUP onto jobseekers’ payments. Over €2 billion is allocated to spend on jobseeker’s benefit and jobseeker’s allowance but nothing extra for the PUP payment beyond 9th June. Workers should remain on the Covid-19 PUP until sectors return to some normality.
“I am also really concerned that the money we will commit today to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection won’t prepare for the effort that will be needed to get people back to work.
“There must be a massive programme of investment in skills and training now to ensure a generation of workers are not left behind.
“For example, the Safe Pass programme has all but been suspended. I have been receiving calls from trade unions and construction workers who have returned home in the context of the pandemic who need to renew their safe pass to allow them to get back to work but the system has been suspended. This is a quick way of getting younger people in particular back to work and it is something we should explore with SOLAS and the Department of Education and Skills. It is also the season in which contractors hire apprentices and we cannot let it go by without giving apprentices the opportunities they need.
“There is also €100 billion available from the European Commission through the SURE programme to provide income supports, training and upskilling opportunities, and the caretaker government will need to bring forward new initiatives, including a reformed short-term working scheme.
“What we need is a new deal for a new generation. As was the case with the previous recession, the reality is that younger people will unfortunately be more adversely affected. However, we can change that, as it does not have to be the case if we invest in their training now.”