News & Media

Covid Income of Lowest Paid should not be cut

24 May 2020

Statement by Ged Nash TD
Spokesperson on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform
  • Language used is divisive and straight from the Varadkar ‘welfare cheats’ playbook 

With large parts of the economy still closed, Labour’s Social Protection spokesperson Ged Nash TD said it would be unacceptable for Fine Gael to cut the COVID-19 income of the lowest paid in our society in June, as reported in today's Sunday Times.

Deputy Nash said: 

"Cutting the basic income of thousands of workers when large parts of the economy are shut, with no alternative for them to go back to work would be wrong. It is reported today that the Minister for Finance will now cut the €350 weekly Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) for some recipients next month.

"Thousands of people who rely on part time hours, irregular and precarious shift patterns, and seasonal work will now be impacted by Fine Gael's latest attack on social welfare recipients despite large parts of the tourism, hospitality and retail sectors being closed. 

“The language used by Fine Gael to target these paid who have lost their jobs is straight out of the ‘welfare cheats’ conservative hard-man playbook the Taoiseach deployed when he was Minister for Social Protection. 

"Lets not forget we are talking about people who were in employment until the State itself shut down the economy. These were people who were working, who wanted to work and who in my experience want to get back to work as soon as possible. It’s a bit much and is utterly divisive for FG to be beating the welfare cheats drum. 

"We have an economic crisis now due to the pandemic shutdown. The economy was placed in an induced coma to stop the spread of Covid-19 and the PUP and the Wage Subsidy Schemes were put in place to support incomes and businesses. 

“The €350 level was seen as the rate that people needed to live on, based on the kinds of wages those in the most affected sectors ordinarily earned. Those sectors are a long way from coming back and the payment should not be cut now. The same bills are still there with rent, utilities and all the other costs of living. 

"No one should be moved to a lower income payment when most of the country is still shut down. What the crisis has shown is how many people are on low pay, and have insecure work. That is the issue we should be seeking to address, not engaging in welfare bashing.

"They shouldn’t be punished now through no fault of their own. As more sectors reopen and people go back to work the costs of the COVID-19 PUP will fall massively.

"Whats all the more bizarre is that it’s likely such a move to cut the payment will not even save much money for the State as people will be moved to other social welfare payments and then will be likely to move onto rent supplement and HAP, become eligible for medical cards and other benefits, or may seek to retrain. This would be penny wise but pound foolish.

"Instead of attacking the lowest paid in the country, the Fine Gael caretaker government should focus on addressing the problems workers are facing going back to work including the lack of a plan to reopen childcare, and the problems facing new mothers returning to work after maternity leave."