Unions want incomes underpinned

Fórsa and other unions have called on the Government to vastly improve income supports for tens of thousands of workers threatened with lay-offs because of the coronavirus crisis.


Although measures have been put in place to speed-up welfare payments, those who lose their jobs face a huge drop in income as Jobseekers’ benefit is set at just €203 a week.


Earlier this week the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) demanded much more ambitious measures from the Government to preserve workers’ jobs and incomes.


Over 140,000 workers were laid off over last weekend, mainly people who work in pubs, hotels and childcare. It’s estimated that another 200,000 jobs are at immediate risk.


In a letter to Leo Varadkar earlier this week, ICTU general secretary Patricia King said this level of shock unemployment would match the total number of jobs lost in over two years following the 2008 financial crash.


“This necessitates exceptional financial intervention. Workers are not in a position to withstand this economic burden and we are urging Government to immediately introduce a scheme that subsidises the salaries of workers under threat of lay-off due to the Covid-19 crisis, with a view to preserving their net income,” she said.


ICTU pointed to robust responses agreed between unions, employers and governments in other European countries. In Denmark, a temporary wage compensation scheme has been agreed to help companies that would otherwise have to let staff go.


The Swedish Government has also agreed a temporary scheme with unions and employers, which would guarantee workers 40% of their normal hours and 90% of their pay, while halving employers’ wage costs.


Ms King said a household with two adults and one child on a single income of €50,000 could see a two-thirds drop in net income if the earner was laid off. A single childless worker on €25,000 could see a fall of around half.


“There is also great divergence with regards to employers’ efforts to uphold wages for their workforce, with some making great efforts while others make none,” she said.


Unions are seeking the introduction of a State-funded scheme that preserves net incomes when workers are threatened with coronavirus-related lay-offs.


Read ICTU’s full letter to the Taoiseach here.

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