#COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme not working for the low paid – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

3 April 2020
By Elaine Murphy

Deputy O’Laoighaire

Sinn Féin TD for Cork South Central, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, has highlighted significant failings with the wage subsidy scheme, which has meant that low paid workers are being penalised under the government’s Wage Subsidy Scheme.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Laoghaire said:

“Sinn Féin argued for, and supported the introduction of an Income Support Scheme for workers and businesses to maintain a relationship between workers and their employers at this time. It of course made sense, although we would have gone much further in terms of maximum payments to staff, and our proposed scheme was designed in a different way.

“Since its introduction, a number of shortcomings and weaknesses have become apparent. Some of these issues are to do with how it is being communicated, but some of the issues are structural.”

“The biggest issue is that low paid workers are not well served by it. Employers who sign up to the scheme are required to pay their employees no more than 70% of their net weekly wage, which for many is less than the €350 they would receive through the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

“I have learned this evening that Penneys are offering workers just 80% of their usual pay, meaning many of their workers fall into the category of those earning less than they would on welfare payments. That is completely unacceptable.

“There is also the case that while many employers are doing what they can to support employees, some are taking advantage, and not adding anything to the subsidy at all beyond a nominal amount, even if they are trading. That is wrong.”

“There is also the capping for employees above a certain income, meaning that they cannot even access the maximum 410, because in theory their employer might be in a better position to properly top up their wages, when in reality we know that they simply arent doing that. There needs to be a minimum contribution by employers for this to work”

“Sinn Féin are engaging with ICTU and with Mandate on this matter, and we have called on the Minister for Finance and Revenue to ensure that the government’s scheme fixes a €350 minimum payment.”

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