Setting hard targets on the phasing out of pandemic income and business supports is “a bad idea”, and the Government needs to adopt a more “flexible and long term stance”, rather than adopting “a hawkish and hard-line approach”.
This is the view of Labour Galway City West councillor, Niall McNelis, who said continued pandemic supports will be needed until at least the end of this year.
“Over the last year on a number of occasions the Government had to change the hard deadlines they put in place for the ending of Covid-19 pandemic supports for workers and business,” he said. “The stabilisers should not be removed too soon and every worker deserves a fair chance to get back to work, and every business a shot at viability.”
Cllr McNelis is thus calling for the financial supports to be extended to the end of the year at a minimum. He also pointed out that the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council has encouraged that welfare supports continue into 2022 on a targeted basis.
“People want to, and will go back to work,” he said, “as more than 400,000 workers returned to their jobs last summer when the economy partially reopened then. Many sectors and workers will struggle to get back on their feet, but it would be dangerous to rapidly ration people off the supports that have maintained our society over the last year.”
Ireland and the German Kurzarbeit model
Cllr McNelis is calling on the Government to turn the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme into a Short Time Work Scheme; and for a person’s time spent on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment to be reflected in future redundancy payments.
“There also must be legal clarity for workers that time spent on the PUP or EWSS will be reflected in any future redundancy rights and payments,” he said, and called on the Government to examine the German Kurzarbeit model. This is a German state-funded safety net, which keeps salaries flowing to employees even when their work has dried up. France, Italy, and Britain have rolled out similar schemes, and been discussing whether to prolong them.
“We must make it a permanent feature of our labour market model and allow continued supports to be provided,” he said. “When hours are low, that's when we should make training and upskilling opportunities available, and where the taxpayer is involved in helping firms, the Government should insist on compliance with a decent work charter and a ‘no lay-off’ pledge.”