SIPTU has called for the increased funding in Budget 2021 to assist the sectors worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic to be linked to reforms to ensure improved working conditions and an equitable recovery. SIPTU General Secretary, Joe Cunningham said: “While billions of euro are being spent to shore up the economy, the Government has failed in this budget to signpost its future direction. Short-term cash needs a long-term strategy if it is to be effective and efficient.  “Additional cash subsidies to businesses and relief for those who depend on the PUP are very welcome. The commitment to halt the pension age increase to 67 is also welcome as is the promised investment in bed capacity and other healthcare initiatives.  “However, we are in danger of repeating past mistakes. In the last VAT cut for the hospitality sector, profits grew exponentially while wages stagnated. Hospitality employers prospered on the back of state subsidies, low pay and poor working conditions. Subsidies should be linked to the establishment of a sectoral body so that employees and employers together can negotiate the most efficient use of public subsidies.” SIPTU Economist, Michael Taft, said: “The Government is squandering a massive opportunity to transform the childcare sector. The State is already subsidising most of the expenditure in this sector but fees are still the highest in the EU while workers are some of the lowest paid. For very little extra the state should effectively take over workers’ wages and significantly reduce fees. “There is a real danger that Budget 2021 will accelerate inequality. The failure to increase social protection, the paltry increase in the minimum wage and the regressive taxation measures that will affect low-income and low-paid workers most is a recipe for rising poverty and inequality. “Ireland needs a considerable and sustained investment drive to confront the challenges of the pandemic, Brexit and climate change, not just for next year, but for the rest of the decade. The increase of €600 million over previous commitments in the National Development Plan is far less than what is required. The number of new houses arising from this budget looks set to be very small. We need to significantly increase our borrowing for public investment, especially at a time of zero interest rates.”   He added: “The Government still has time to rectify these issues. It can increase investment, transform the childcare sector and support households out of the Recovery Fund.   “The Government can also ensure full employee participation on the sectoral taskforces that it will announce in the upcoming National Economic Plan, starting with low-paid sectors.  Such participation will help ensure the best result in terms of recovery and restructuring. We need a democratically accountable recovery.”