The government is under pressure to cover sick pay for workers self-isolating over coronavirus concerns and to reduce taxes for restaurants and the tourism sector which have been hit by reduced business.
With the number of COVID-19 cases rising, Department of Public Expenditure officials met with trade union leaders today amid concerns about employees losing pay if they don't work.
Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary Patricia King pressed officials to ensure workers not covered for sick pay by their employer could get assurances from the state that they are paid if they must remain away from work and self-isolate.
She said the meeting with officials, which followed a commitment by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that some arrangement would be made, was “positive”, adding: “What we have all agreed to do is consider what the options are and whether or not we can build a solution. Everybody understands that the proposition has to be dealt with and self-isolation and the containment phase.
“Everybody is of the view that all workers should be able to self isolate. Everybody is working towards a proposition that will handle that.”
The concern centres around workers, both private and public sector, who may not be guaranteed pay if they stay at home and self-isolate.
ICTU wrote to Mr Varadkar earlier this week outlining its concerns that “hundreds of thousands of workers” not entitled to sick pay in low-paying jobs, or precarious work, would ultimately not be able to self-isolate.
Ms King’’s letter said that it was imperative to uphold “the net incomes of all affected workers, either through the social welfare system or through temporary payments".
The Department of Expenditure refused to discuss the talks with unions today. Meetings on the issue are set to resume over the weekend.
Meanwhile, Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, wants support for food businesses.
He said: “We have a potential recession situation on our hands due to the spread of COVID-19. Irish food and restaurant businesses are already struggling to stay afloat throughout 2020 due to the high costs of doing business, but if the OECD predictions come true, Irish businesses are due to fare much worse."
Tourism and restaurant owners want an immediate reduction of the VAT rate to 9% for businesses for a minimum period of six months. Banks must also defer loan repayments for at least half a year, said the group.
Other supports being demanded include the introduction of a moratorium on VAT payments by Revenue.
A further radical suggestion from the association is for employers’’ PRSI to be halved to help support employers and businesses hit by any economic damage from the coronavirus. Mr Cummins added: "Decisive action needs to be taken immediately. My members need to know that the government supports them in this crisis and that the survival of Irish businesses is a top priority.
"Restaurants and small hospitality businesses across the country have seen a jump in cancellations over the last couple of weeks. What we’re hearing from our members is that they are experiencing 80% corporate booking cancellations due to COVID-19.”
- The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
- Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department - if this is not possible, phone 112 or 999 and in a medical emergency (if you have severe symptoms) phone 112 or 999