Lifeboat stations in Ireland will still remain fully operational, as the RNLI plans to put a third of its paid staff on temporary leave over the next few weeks.
The RNLI chief executive Mark Dowie has said he is taking a 50% pay cut, as the coronavirus outbreak tests “many charities and emergency services” across Britain and Ireland.
Some 30% of staff will be put on “furlough” or temporary leave, and planned construction of new lifeboats and replacement of equipment and buildings is being put on hold, he said.
Full-time mechanics and coxswains employed at all weather stations and voluntary crew will still continue to be available for call-outs at its 238 stations around Ireland and Britain, the organisation said.
An RNLI spokeswoman confirmed that call-outs in Ireland were down over the past month, but rescues were still taking place, including a response by the RNLI Valentia station in Kerry today.
Mr Dowie said the organisation had “some reserves in place to deal with short sharp shocks to our financial situation”.
“However, we are all facing unprecedented times and we have seen an immediate impact not just on our frontline services, but also on our ability to fundraise which is already having an impact on our finances,” Mr Dowie said.
Mr Dowie said the charity is planning ways to fundraise online and on social media.
“I’ve also made the decision to reduce my salary by 50% from now until this crisis has passed,” he said.
“As a charity, we have to take a pragmatic approach in these difficult times and make sure we’re focusing our supporters’ donations on maintaining our lifesaving service for generations to come,” Mr Dowie said.
“We will be topping up all those on furlough to full pay during April and then in May, to 80% pay if that is above the £2,500 (sterling) cap set by the [British] government,” he said.
The RNLI employs staff at its headquarters in Poole, Dorset, England, where it also has a training college, and at regional offices in Dublin, London, Perth, Saltash and Ipswich and the Isle of Wight.
Mr Dowie paid tribute to supporters, volunteers and staff and said that “even in these most testing of times our dedicated lifeboat crew, along with all those who support them, continue to ensure our vital search and rescue service ....is ready to save everyone in trouble at sea”.
The RNLI is responsible for seasonal lifeguards in Britain and has paused their roll-out in response to the British government’s instructions for people to stay at home.
Local authorities that employ seasonal lifeguards in Ireland have restricted access to popular bathing beaches in a similar measure.
The RNLI is running live “Water Safety Wednesdays” on Facebook with its water safety team, aimed at parents, guardians, grandparents and teachers.