Unite says employers must retain workers to kick-start recovery
Union writes to Minister for Finance highlighting anomalies
April 10th: Unite, which represents workers throughout the construction sector today (Friday) expressed concern at the failure of many construction companies to register for the Covid-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme. Unite Regional Officer Tom Fitzgerald pointed out that the scheme offers the only mechanism whereby employers can retain workers on the payroll, receiving a wage subsidy which can be topped up to a worker’s normal earnings:
“Over the past fortnight, Unite has been in constant contact with our members and has written to a range of companies encouraging them to avail of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme. We are advised that a number of companies have decided not to register for the scheme. In some cases this is because of the step-effect which sees the maximum subsidy fall from €410 to €350 depending on previous earnings.
“The counter-productive impact of this cap has been highlighted by the ESRI, and Unite has written to Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe urging that anomalies in the scheme be addressed. We are currently awaiting a response from the Minister.
“While the cap may discourage some companies from registering for the scheme, we would remind them that the difference between the two bands is only €60 per worker per week – a relatively small amount given the significant profits generated by many companies in the sector before the emergency hit. In our view, regardless of whether the subsidy is €410 or €350, many construction companies would be in a position to make up the difference between the subsidy and their workers’ usual wage and show solidarity with workers and their families at this time.
“Companies in the sector have profited significantly from their workers’ skills and experience. It is morally unacceptable and economically short-sighted for such profitable companies to react to this emergency by simply laying workers off.
“The construction sector is critical to the Irish economy and has the potential to help drive our economic recovery once this emergency is over: investment in the sector was over €25 billion in 2019. Any failure by individual companies to retain experienced and skilled workers could hamper the ability of the sector to get off the ground quickly.
“Construction employers need to step up to the plate, register for the Wage Subsidy Scheme and engage with the Government and Revenue to iron out any anomalies. Such an approach would lay the best basis for recovery in the sector”, Mr Fitzgerald concluded.