Solidarity is the key to recovery

Hundreds of thousands of people are being laid off from their jobs, or placed on short-time working, and these numbers will increase over the coming weeks and for the foreseeable future, until the crisis abates.

During this emergency, the principles of social justice and solidarity, upon which this Union is founded, must be applied if we are to ensure that our society overcomes, and recovers from, this unprecedented public health crisis.

SIPTU members are operating at the front line of this emergency across all sectors of our Union in both the public and private sector. Our members, as with many workers across wide sectors of the economy, have accepted temporary changes to work practices and continue to display flexibility to meet the demands of the current crisis.

This week, SIPTU General Secretary, Joe Cunningham called for a Wage Compensation Scheme to act as Solidarity Buffer to alleviate current hardship and aid social and economic recovery after this crisis ends.

He said there should be a moratorium on rents and utility bills for three months and that the Government should bring together representatives of workers and employers to agree a temporary national emergency programme to protect jobs and incomes across the economy.

In a letter to An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last Thursday, Joe said that the current COVID-19 Refund Scheme should be transformed into a comprehensive wage compensation programme and underpinned by three simple changes.

Firstly, the scheme must be available to both workers who have been laid off and those currently in employments but are at risk of losing their jobs due to COVID-19.

There should be no distinction between those who have been laid off due to the pandemic and those who are at risk of being laid off.

Secondly, employers who want to top up the €203 weekly payment must be able to do so without being excluded from the scheme. Good employers must be rewarded and not penalised in this emergency.

Over the weekend, and following intensive union pressure, an agreement was reached on a mechanism to allow employers, including Early Years providers, to top-up wages above the €203 and still claim the refund from the state. The details of how the system will work are being finalised and will be published next week.

Thirdly, the State, in addition to paying €203 per week for employees, should provide an additional top-up to 75 percent of their current wage, leaving the employer to pay the balance of 25 percent. This would provide security for workers and significantly reduce employer costs during this emergency. As it stands, the Covid-19 payment nowhere near enough.

SIPTU Researcher Michael Taft speaking on the RTE Six One News: Available now on RTE Player.

A Solidarity Buffer would alleviate the current hardship for workers, provide support to businesses and facilitate both an economic and social recovery when we emerge from this crisis. Let’s make it happen.

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Liberty (@SIPTU)

Liberty (@SIPTU)

Ireland’s Strongest Union. #ourSIPTU