The SIPTU General Secretary said there should be a moratorium on payments, rents and utility bills for three months. He said 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 his letter, Joe Cunningham said:

“The spread of the COVID-19 virus has created profound uncertainty over the health and financial security of working people and their families across the island. Our members are deeply concerned about the effects of this crisis on their jobs, incomes and families. SIPTU members are operating at the front line of this emergency across all sectors of our Union in both the public and private sector.

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 days and weeks and for the foreseeable future, until the crisis abates. While acknowledging the important steps the Government has taken to address the concerns and security of people, I am writing to urge that additional and substantial action be taken.

First, there should be the immediate introduction of an extensive wage subsidy scheme that would keep employees in work, if necessary on a short-time basis, while maintaining their current income.

Second, there should be an immediate increase in Jobseekers’ Benefit and related unemployment payments such as the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, to €305 per week, keeping parity with the Illness Benefit.

Third, for those who have experienced a significant decline in income due to illness, job loss, short-time working or caring for children because of school or creche closures, there should be a global moratorium on payments, rents and utility bills for three months or until the economic uncertainty ends.

Fourth, the best way to deliver a comprehensive programme of economic support and social certainty is for the main stakeholders – representatives of employees and employers along with the State – to agree a temporary national emergency programme. The Government should immediately convene a meeting of these stakeholders at national level with the goal of agreeing this programme. This should take place alongside Government-convened meetings at sectoral level to address particular issues in various sectors of the economy.

SIPTU is ready and willing to work with the Government and other relevant stakeholders to implement these and other necessary measures to collectively address the crisis, grounded on the principles of social justice and solidarity.”