Continued pandemic supports will be needed at least until the end of the year
- Time to turn EWSS into a Short Time Work Scheme.
- Time spent on PUP must be reflected in future redundancy payments.
Speaking in advance of the publication of the National Economic Recovery Plan, Labour Finance spokesperson Ged Nash TD warned that setting hard targets on the phasing out of pandemic income and business supports was a bad idea, and urged a more flexible and long term approach.
Deputy Nash said:
“Over the last year on a number of occasions the government had to change the hard deadlines they put in place for the ending of Covid-19 pandemic supports for workers and business. That’s why I am urging them tomorrow to adopt a more flexible and long term stance, rather than adopting a hawkish and hard-line approach.
“The stabilisers should not be removed too soon and every worker deserves a fair chance to get back to work, and every business a shot at viability.
“Even the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council has encouraged that welfare supports continue into 2022 on a more targeted basis. We know the benefit of these supports with IFAC saying the economic hit from Covid-19 would have been twice as bad without the level of financial support that was provided.
“For those reasons, the financial supports should be extended out to the end of the year at a minimum, as we can’t yet predict what will happen over the next six months, but we shouldn’t take the risk of further damage being incurred.
“What we do know from before though is that people want to, and will go back to work, as over 400,000 workers returned to their jobs last summer when the economy partially reopened then.
“There also must be legal clarity for workers that time spent on the PUP or EWSS will be reflected in any future redundancy rights and payments.
“Many sectors and workers will struggle to get back on their feet but we know that up until the virus struck all these people wanted to work or run their own business. It would be dangerous to rapidly ration people off the supports that have maintained our society over the last year.
“Now is also the time for us to reimagine the employment wage subsidy scheme (EWSS) by taking a leaf out of the German Kurzarbeit model, and make it a permanent feature of our labour market model and allow continued supports to be provided to, for example, the stricken aviation sector or sectors like hospitality that won’t have a full summer tourism season.
“When hours are low that’s when we should make training and upskilling opportunities available, and where the taxpayer is involved in helping firms, government should insist on compliance with a decent work charter and a ‘no lay-off’ pledge. That’s why Labour proposed such a short term working scheme in our Budget proposals last year.”