An Oireachtas Committee has heard calls for a specialised "short-time work scheme" to support companies temporarily impacted by Brexit. 

Such a scheme would support employees who have had their working week reduced temporarily. 

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Ibec and Border Communities Against Brexit were today all appearing before the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment to discuss Brexit readiness. 

ICTU's Patricia King said that the envisaged scheme would differ from current short-time work supports in that it would be tailored to support companies impacted by Brexit in the short term, but who appear to be viable in the long run. 

She warned that no-deal Brexit could see the loss of up to 10,000 jobs. 

Ms King told the committee that she has visited various Government departments, to see if they would adopt the scheme, however she has been given no indication that it will be considered for implementation by 31 December.

She said that "there wasn't a huge enthusiasm for developing it until the very end, Covid took over then and we didn't have any substantive conversations".

ICTU is advocating a "German-type model" that it hopes Ireland could adopt. She said that the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment are more inclined to adopt the German model, if they implement such a scheme at all. 

Ibec's Fergal O'Brien told the committee that he supported ICTU's call for a short-time work scheme. He said he was aware that there would be "other legislation needed, particularly around the wage subsidy support scheme, to support the Brexit-ready firms, so I think there's probably a parallel approach on this for now".

He also told politicians that an "export credit insurance scheme" would be "crucial". This would protect Irish businesses in the case of non-payment for their goods.

According to Mr O'Brien, even the "bare bones" of a future relationship agreement would be "vital" for Irish business. He added that until there is clarity on whether tariffs will be introduced, businesses "cannot fully prepare for the future".

Mr O'Brien told Fine Gael's David Stanton that he did not believe Ireland is looking at "chaos" on 1 January.

However, he warned that there are many challenges around logistics. Mr O'Brien said that the food and drink industry could be looking at extra tariffs amounting to €1.5bn, if Ireland were to trade under World Trade Organization rules with the United Kingdom.

Border Communities Against Brexit, an organisation that campaigns against the creation of a hard border, told Sinn Féin's Louise O'Reilly that they remain concerned for EU citizens, who are not born in Ireland, and their ability to travel freely over the border from Northern Ireland to the Republic in the new year.

Tom Murray, a Donegal Pharmacist and member of the organisation, said that "they are not covered by the free movement of people directive and it's not being addressed by the current Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol".

Mr Murray expressed concern over a lack of funding to support border communities. He also told the committee that youth unemployment in the under-25s is at levels ranging from 40-50%.

All three groups told the committee that they are worried about the preparedness of Irish businesses ahead of the Brexit deadline of 31 December. 


Latest Brexit stories