Belfast Telegraph

Corbyn's proposal for extra bank holidays 'will damage Northern Ireland economy'

By Eamon Sweeney

An election pledge by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to increase the number of UK holidays could damage the economy, according to the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce.

Mr Corbyn has announced that if Labour wins the General Election in June, it would seek to create four new UK-wide holidays on the patron saint's day of each of the home nations.

If the proposal came to fruition, it would mean that workers in Northern Ireland would be off on St David's Day on March 1, St George's Day on April 23 and St Andrew's Day on November 30.

Conversely, the English, Welsh and Scots would get a break on St Patrick's Day.

England and Wales have eight bank holidays a year, Scotland has nine and Northern Ireland has 10.

The Labour Party claims that the average number for other G20 countries is 12. While St Patrick's Day is a bank holiday in Northern Ireland and St Andrew's Day means a break for the Scots, St George's Day and St David's Day are not recognised in the same way.

However, a spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce told the Belfast Telegraph that "another three days out of the office for Northern Ireland workers could potentially be very damaging to the local economy".

"The local economy already has the lowest productivity level in the United Kingdom," the business group said.

"It is currently at 19% and is continuing to widen despite the development of various economic plans."

Announcing his proposals Jeremy Corbyn said: "These holidays will be a chance for workers to spend time with their families in their communities with friends. But they will also be a chance to celebrate the national cultures of our proud nations."

The Labour leader said he would also seek the support of the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales before putting the plans into operation.

The spokesperson for the Chamber of Commerce continued: "April and May already contain bank holidays so additional ones would place further strain on productivity rates."

Reacting to Mr Corbyn's proposal, a Conservative spokesman said: "The British economy would be on a permanent holiday if Mr Corbyn got near Downing Street."

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