Labor Funding Spokesman Ged Nash today (Tuesday September 7) called on the Government to create a new short-term wage support scheme to help protect jobs and businesses most at risk of collapse in the face of rising gas prices.
Speaking as up to forty redundancy notices are expected to be issued at the Drogheda Premier Periclase magnesium products plant, the Louth & East Meath deputy said:
“Since the introduction of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Program and its successor, the Employment Wage Subsidy Program (EWSS), I have consistently advocated for an agile and flexible wage subsidy program to become a more permanent feature. of the employment and business support landscape.
“The true value of such a program in saving jobs and protecting viable businesses from bankruptcy has been proven during the pandemic. A similar, less costly but highly targeted scheme must now be designed to protect jobs in businesses vulnerable to exorbitant gas price hikes this year and next.
“We didn’t think that soon after the end of the EWSS we would have a new and very real threat to the maintenance of jobs in energy-intensive industries, particularly in certain sub-sectors of manufacturing.
“I advocated for a wage support scheme – with strict social conditions and clear qualification thresholds – to become an integrated part of Irish labor market strategy to enable the state to help companies to deal with unforeseen, industry-specific, short-term shocks. That call has fallen on deaf ears. We are now living with the consequences.
“Rather than waiting for a crisis to occur, the government should have been armed with the tools to respond quickly to short- and medium-term crises such as this gas price shock.
“The Tanaiste must immediately undertake an assessment of the number of jobs at risk in energy-intensive export-oriented industries and introduce a targeted wage support program to keep skilled workers in employment at this time.
“Long-established and viable manufacturing companies like Premier Periclase in Drogheda face an existential threat due to rising gas prices.
“During the redundancy consultation process, the company said it stood to lose €1m a month by the end of the year and I fear Premier Periclase is the canary in the Irish Heavy Manufacturing Base Coal Mine.
“The European Commission has approved plans to provide financial support to companies under pressure from gas and energy prices. I understand that a support program will be made available to businesses shortly. However, these interventions alone, as important as they are, will not be enough for many companies.
“If companies like Premier Periclase cannot be supported to transition from reliance on fossil fuels to renewable energy while retaining good jobs through an agile state-led wage support program during the transition period, mark my words when I say that these businesses will no longer be a feature of the Irish manufacturing base when the current crisis finally subsides.These jobs will be lost forever.
“Creating a new, highly targeted wage support scheme to make at-risk workers redundant could help make a difference for many Irish businesses facing an autumn and winter of huge uncertainty and I have again asked the Minister of Finance and Tanaiste to properly consider, cost and implement such a program before the budget.
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