Government should consider introducing a scheme that subsidises the salaries of workers under threat of redundancy due to the COVID-19 crisis, the leaders of four leading business membership organisations in Northern Ireland have said.
The call was made by the NI Business Alliance, a partnership between the Confederation of British Industry Northern Ireland (CBI NI), and the Centre for Competitiveness, the Institute of Directors Northern Ireland (IoD NI), the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
In a joint statement, supported by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), the leaders of the business bodies said:
“We have already seen a number of high-profile redundancies this week as companies grapple to maintain operations through the COVID-19 crisis.
“The number one asset for any business is their employees and support staff. These must be protected.
“In partnership with ICTU, we believe that a short-term working scheme similar to others instigated across Europe must now be explored by the government. For example, the Danish government has committed to provide a salary subsidy of up to 75 per cent for any employee at risk of redundancy, with the remaining 25 per cent paid by their employer.
“Any scheme should be facilitated by the setting up of a high-level labour market group, to include government, trade unions and businesses, designed to protect workers over the coming weeks and months.
“Similar schemes were used in many European countries during the 2008 financial crisis and proved effective.
“Businesses and employees need protection now to safeguard jobs and protect livelihoods.
“By acting decisively and promptly while we still have the opportunity to protect jobs, businesses can be afforded the flexibility required to help the economy revert back to normal following the COVID-19 crisis.”
Earlier this week, the NI Business Alliance set up a COBRA-style committee aimed at providing guidance to organisations in response to the coronavirus outbreak and to act as a conduit to government.
It is also surveying members, and the wider economy, on how businesses are being impacted by COVID-19. This can be accessed at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ZYVGRMX.
The leaders of the organisations that form the Business Alliance include: Stephen Kingon, Chair, Centre for Competitiveness; Gordon Milligan, Chair, IoD NI; Ian Henry, President, NI Chamber; Angela McGowan, Director, CBI NI; Ann McGregor, Chief Executive, NI Chamber; Bob Barbour, CEO, Centre for Competitiveness and Kirsty McManus, Director, IoD NI.