Wage support scheme needed to protect jobs this winter

06 September 2022
  • Drogheda’s Premier Periclase plant ‘canary in coalmine’ as redundancy notices set to be issued
  • Planned energy supports won’t be sufficient to stave off job losses in industry 

Labour finance spokesperson Ged Nash has called today (Tuesday, 7th September) on the government to create a new short-term wage support scheme to help protect jobs and firms most at risk of collapse over escalating gas prices.

Speaking as up to forty redundancy notices look set to be issued at Drogheda magnesium products plant Premier Periclase, the Louth & East Meath Deputy said:

“Since the introduction of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and the successor Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), I have persistently made the case for an agile and flexible wage subsidy scheme to become a more permanent feature of the jobs and business support landscape.

“The true value of such a scheme in saving jobs and protecting viable businesses from going under was proven during the pandemic. A similar, less costly but highly targeted scheme must now be designed to protect jobs in companies vulnerable to the exorbitant gas price hikes this year and next.

“Little did we think that shortly after the EWSS was ended, we would have a new and very real threat to the maintenance of jobs in energy-intensive industries, especially in certain sub-sectors of manufacturing.

“I have been arguing for a wage support scheme – with strict social conditions and clear qualifying thresholds – to become an embedded feature of Ireland’s labour market strategy in order to allow the State to support good firms deal with unanticipated, sector-specific short-term shocks. That plea has fallen on deaf ears. We are now living with the consequences.

“Rather than waiting for a crisis to come, the government should have been armed with the tools to respond rapidly to short-medium term crises such as this gas price shock.

“The Tanaiste must immediately undertake an assessment of the number of jobs at risk in export-orientated energy intensive industries and introduce a targeted wage support scheme to keep skilled workers in jobs at this time.

“Long established and viable manufacturing companies like Premier Periclase in Drogheda are facing an existential threat because of the escalating price of gas.

“During the redundancy consultation process, the company has claimed that it stands to lose €1million a month between now and the end of the year and I fear that Premier Periclase is the canary in the coal mine for Ireland heavy manufacturing base.

“The European Commission has approved plans to provide some financial support to companies who are under pressure from gas and energy prices. My understanding is that a scheme of support will be made available to companies shortly. However such interventions alone, important as they are, will not be sufficient for many firms.

“If companies like Premier Periclase cannot be supported to move away from fossil fuel dependency to renewables while retaining good employment through an agile State-led wage support scheme during the transition period, mark my words when I say that such companies will no longer be a feature of the Irish manufacturing base when this current crisis ultimately recedes. These jobs will be lost forever.

“The creation of a new, highly targeted wage support scheme to furlough at-risk workers could help make the difference for many Irish firms facing into an autumn and winter of huge uncertainty and I have again asked the Minister for Finance and the Tanaiste to properly consider, cost and implement such a scheme ahead of the budget.”

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