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Government warned of protests over cuts to Pandemic Unemployment Payment

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett accused the government of ‘shafting’ certain sectors of workers.

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Richard Boyd Barrett of Solidarity (Brian Lawless/PA)

Richard Boyd Barrett of Solidarity (Brian Lawless/PA)

Richard Boyd Barrett of Solidarity (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Government has been warned of protests following cuts to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment to sectors of workers who are unable to find work.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett said the recent cuts to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment are “unjust” and fail to recognise how particular sectors have been hit by the virus.

Citing examples of sectors, he listed people in the arts and entertainment sector, as well as taxi drivers.

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment has been cut from 350 euro per week to 203 euro per week for people who were earning less than 200 euro per week before the pandemic began –  the equivalent of Jobseekers benefit.

He said the Government should consider different circumstances for different sectors as they cannot return to the sector they once worked in.

He said: “Certain sectors of the workforce have been put on their knees because of public health measures and are still likely to face the devastation of their livelihoods for a very long time to come through no fault of their own.

“Taxi drivers, people in the arts, live entertainment… You have completely shafted those people who endure the same hardship as everyone else.”

Mr Boyd-Barrett said people working in such sectors did not have access to the wage subsidy scheme or government grants as they are self-employed.

Under legislation passed in the Dail on Tuesday night, anyone in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment must be “genuinely seeking” employment.

He said this is unfair to workers in these sectors as they cannot look for jobs in the sectors that have closed down indefinitely.

He added: “You have given the taxi drivers nothing, you have shafted them. They are suffering through no fault of their own.

“What are you doing for these people who have their jobs lost due to the public health measures?

“I tell you what Taoiseach, you are stirring up a big revolt among these workers as they are angry. There are going to be protests unless you do something.

“You are driving a coach and horses through the principle  that we are ‘all in this together’.

“Taxi drivers are now being whipped back to work because of the cuts to the Covid-19 payment but the work available to them is about 20% less than what was previously available. Their livelihoods are linked to tourism, live entertainment and pubs.”

In response, Micheal Martin said the Government has extended the Pandemic Unemployment Payment until March.

PA