Unions have been responding to the Government’s National Resilience and Recovery Plan, which was unveiled on Tuesday (1st June).
The plan, which is valued at up to €5bn when taxation measures are included, makes provision for the Emergency Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) to be extended, unchanged, until the end of September, and is to continue at another rate, as yet unconfirmed, until the end of the year.
More than 50,000 training scheme places, on digital and green job programmes, are also to be created under the plan, while plans to phase out the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) were also announced.
Congress general secretary Patricia King said: “The Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) has proved integral to maintaining workers’ income and, hence, consumer demand and social solidarity throughout the public health emergency. When and how the PUP is withdrawn must be based on concrete evidence and not on baseless claims from a handful of employers that workers do not want to return to their jobs.”
Patricia added that the Government’s own target of 100,000 workers going back to work in May has been reached and the vacancy rate is on a per capita footing with the UK and US, where no PUP equivalent payment exists.
Speaking ahead of the publication of the plan on Tuesday, Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan emphasised the need for investment in public services, particularly in light of how valuable all public services had become during the pandemic.
Kevin said it was also essential to avoid a ‘cliff edge’ in Covid supports for workers and businesses, and emphasised the need for specific measures in sectors like aviation, where recovery is expected to take much longer.
He further emphasised Congress’s call that direct government grants to businesses, in the order of billions of Euros, must be conditional on a commitment by them to decent work and to retaining their workforce: “Fórsa repeatedly made the call for this type of conditionality to apply in the aviation industry, yet some aviation employers availed of state cash while making plans to slash their workforce, as we recently saw occur at Shannon Airport,” he said.
Patricia noted that the Government further suspended workers redundancy rights, “On the same day they are telling workers their income supports are being withdrawn is grossly anomalous and deeply unfair.
“If employers are unwilling to maintain the link with their workers through the wage subsidy scheme, they equally cannot be allowed to continue to have the protection of the freeze on redundancy rights,” she said.
Congress is calling for radical reform of the social safety net in the form of a shift away from flat-rated income supports to pay-related benefits and comprehensive universal public services, in line with EU standards.
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