Ireland’s social welfare structure must change to match pay-related payments common in many European countries, according to ICTU general secretary Patricia King. She has urged politicians from all parties to get behind a new trade union-led campaign to strengthen Ireland’s “threadbare social safety net.”
In a letter addressed to TDs and government officials, Patricia said the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) had demonstrated that a pay-related system could replace Ireland’s outdated fixed-payment approach.
As things stand, jobseeker’s allowance consists of a fixed payment of €203 per week, which is below the poverty line and gives relatively little support to those out of work.
In contrast, EU countries like Germany and France have a pay-related system, where welfare benefits are designed to secure a workers’ normal living standards during time-limited periods of difficulty.
ICTU says the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) was effectively a European-style benefit that was aligned to the recipient’s income when in work. It wants the introduction of a short term pay-related income for those who have lost their jobs to match other European countries.
ICTU social policy officer Laura Bambrick said Ireland’s fixed-payment welfare system means the replacement value of the benefit falls as earnings rise. This leaves middle-income workers exposed to an even bigger drop in their living standards during periods of unemployment, illness, maternity and family leave.
“For example, a worker earning the average annual wage of around €40,000 has just a quarter (26%) of their wage replaced by unemployment benefit. Unlike our flat-rate payments, the European-model of pay-related benefits ensure workers can continue to pay their mortgage and other bills during short interruptions in earning a wage,” she said.
The Government has already indicated that it will consider a permanent move to a more income-related approach. In the meantime, ICTU has launched a campaign for the social safety net to be strengthened for workers, with an immediate move to pay-related short-term benefits.
It’s never been more important – or easier – to get the protections and benefits of union membership. Join Fórsa HERE or contact us HERE.