Ictu head Patricia King warns Paschal Donohoe against cutting €350 pandemic payment

ICTU General Secretary Patricia King. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

Patricia King, the head of the Irish Congress Trade Unions, has challenged Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe against considering cutting the €350 weekly pandemic payment at any time in the near future, as the number of people receiving some sort of Government payment amid the Covid-19 economic crisis reached a new record of over 1.27 million.

General secretary King said that in the absence of a completely new social income system under a new government that any talk of cutting the €350 weekly payment “should be off the agenda”. 

She also claimed that people weren’t aware of the “shameful” levels of low pay and poverty in the country.

Supermac’s owner Pat McDonagh has been quoted as saying that he couldn’t recruit some staff for his fast-food restaurants because the €350 payment was discouraging some people from taking up part-time work.

New figures from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection showed the number of people on the pandemic unemployment payment of €350 a week fell by only 5,200 last week to 579,400, even as builders and some other occupations started to go back to work. However, DEASP said that many of the 35,600 builders, who have told it that they will be returning to work, will draw their final PUP payment this week.

Nonetheless, the number of people availing of Government wage-support scheme surged by 18,800 to 482,800. And including the 214,700 people on the official unemployment count in April, there are now over 1.27 million receiving some sort of Government support during the Covid-19 economic crisis -- a new record.

Many people on the official unemployment count can qualify for a benchmark weekly unemployment payment of €203 before their household circumstances are determined.

“The €203 is deficient and so in our judgement they (the Government) are going to have to develop income protection,” Ms King said.

“They are going to have a problem. There are a set of people on the €203 plus whatever family supports depending on circumstances; they have a set of people on the €350; and they have a set of people on the wage-subsidy scheme,” she said.

“In the absence of a new social security system, I am against any cut in the €350. Any talk of cutting should be off the agenda. It and the wage-subsidy scheme are needed to support the economy as people go back to work,” Ms King said.