Ireland’s low wages are proving to be a real problem for Leo Varadkar. Yesterday, he once again talked about people “getting more on the pandemic unemployment payment than they got when they were working part-time”. The Taoiseach who won’t take a pay cut on his €211,000 a year salary for the duration of the crisis can’t stand the thought of struggling people having a few extra quid in their pockets to help them get through this.
So yesterday he proposed the following:
“When you are offered your job back, if you refuse it you actually lose your pandemic unemployment payment but your employer will be able to take you back on the wage subsidy scheme.”
It’s important to grasp what is happening here. Fine Gael are presiding over a reckless plan to prematurely get people back to work without being able to “test, track and isolate” every case of COVID-19, as per WHO guidelines. They are running the risk of a second wave of the disease, which could be more devastating than the first.
Workers are already being asked to come back to unsafe workplaces. This push will intensify in the coming weeks and months.
Now Varadkar is proposing that anyone who refuses to risk going back to unsafe work will lose their income supports.
What does Varadkar have to say to those who fear going back to work because they have a medical condition? To those who live with parents and could risk passing the virus on? To those who cannot work because they cannot find childcare?
Not only this, but many employers have used the Wage Subsidy Scheme as an opportunity to slash their employees wages already. Will workers be thrown off Unemployment Benefits if they refuse to come back for reduced wages?
Make no mistake: this is a cold and calculated move by Varadkar to use the whip of hunger to drive workers back to unsafe working conditions, no matter the risks to them or their families. It is also a clear strategy to help the bosses in their assault on wages.
We should resist this with everything we have. As a first step, we are looking to gather as many signatures as possible on our petition below to expand and extend the €350 payment. We must then begin to organise resistance to this vicious attack on workers: