Fórsa has given a guarded welcome to yesterday’s announcement of the largest ever Government-funded stimulus package, which will see over €7 billion pumped into the economy – mostly in the short-term – through supports to businesses and incomes.
The cash injection – made up of over €5 billion in grants and €2 billion in business loan guarantees – will be funded by exchequer borrowing. Sources said the forthcoming budget would likely feature additional stimulus measures.
Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan welcomed the scale of the package and its emphasis on economic recovery over immediate debt repayment, which is now the bedrock of EU-wide response to the pandemic-provoked jobs and economic crisis. But he said citizens would expect accountability from the business community, which would be the immediate beneficiary of most of the measures.
“Fórsa and other unions across Europe have successfully made the case for a massive debt-funded public stimulus package, instead of the catastrophic austerity response we saw during the last recession.
“Citizens and taxpayers – who are ultimately underwriting this package – will want proof that it is genuinely supporting and creating jobs, with decent working conditions, and paid well enough to sustain a decent standard of living. This can’t just be about publicly-funded hand-outs to business with no accountability to society,” he said.
Kevin has consistently argued for massive public investment to meet the jobs challenge of the pandemic, with an emphasis on economic stimulus rather than short-term debt repayment.
Yesterday’s announcement came in the same week that EU leaders agreed a €750 billion continent-wide investment programme, in another significant departure from the previous austerity-based response to recession.
The measures include an extension to the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP), which will now run until next April, although it will be closed to new entrants from mid-September. Seasonal workers and new hires are covered, but the value of payments will fall.
Employers are also set to receive €2,000 for each extra apprentice they take on, along with a two-year €7,500 subsidy to hire under-30s who are currently unemployed or on PUP.
Businesses employing up to 500 staff will also be eligible for cheap loans under a €2 billion credit guarantee scheme.
Some €500 million has been made available for ‘shovel ready’ capital projects, including schools. A further €100 million has been set aside for energy retrofitting, and councils are in line for €60 million to refurbish vacant local authority houses.
However, cash-strapped local councils will need assurances that they will not have to pick up the tab for the continuing business rates holiday, valued at €60 million.
Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) general secretary Patricia King said unions had shaped many of the measures implemented to control the Covid-19 virus and offset the consequences for households and businesses.
“Government grants to businesses must be conditional on a commitment by them to decent work and to retaining their workforce. We must end the scourge of low pay and precarious work and no longer tolerate bogus self-employment that pervades the hardest-hit sectors. And we must vindicate the rights of workers by ensuring their voice is heard through access to collective bargaining,” she said.
The cost of dealing with the pandemic and its economic fallout will see Ireland’s budget deficit reach €30 billion this year, with Government spending now running €16 billion ahead of what was previously budgeted.
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