Business representative body says employers will support upgrading of interventions to full workplace closure

Saturday, 14 March 2020: The Board of Limerick Chamber – the largest business representative body in the Mid-West – has stated its support for a full workplace closure should it be necessary to help overcome the spread of COVID-19 at this critical stage.

The Chamber said that if such a closure is instituted, exceptions will need to be made for organisations that are critical to the medical, pharmaceutical and food supply chains. However, clarity, it said, must also be given with regards to supports for business and employees in this instance before this intervention is initiated.

This includes around: 

  • Ease of access to social welfare payments for employees for the duration of the crisis
  • A necessary social welfare allowance for the self-employed for the duration of the crisis
  • Government to agree with lending institutions a moratorium on commercial and personal loans (including mortgages)
  • Government to provide a moratorium on VAT, PAYE, PRSI payments, local authority rates and water rates

Said Limerick Chamber CEO, Dee Ryan said “There is a growing consensus that to meet and defeat the COVID-19 challenge we have to raise the stakes and Limerick Chamber would support the Government were they to put a complete workplace closure in place.

“We believe that we are in a critical window that could potentially see spread of the virus go to uncontainable levels and do not believe that it is worth running that risk. The lessons are clear already from Wuhan, China, in particular. It’s only after a comprehensive shut-down of public engagement that this is brought under control. The bottom line is that only until rapid and aggressive quarantine and social distancing measures were applied that success was achieved. Playing the waiting game allows time for the virus to spread; by the time infection is confirmed in any one person, many others may have been infected.”

Ms Ryan said that the Mid West business community wants to support national efforts to slow down spread of the virus and spread out the impact on our health care system.  However, she added, there can be no partial measures in supports for business and called on the Government to put in place the specified measures ahead of any workplace closure.

“We recognise that important exceptions will need to be made for organisations and companies that are critical to enabling the country to continue to function, particularly medical, pharmaceutical and food industries. Where possible businesses will continue to operate through remote working as well.  However, we urge the Government to move quickly to put measures in place so that a majority workplace closure can be instituted when necessary.”

This would be a difficult intervention for business, she said, but business would be willing to do what is necessary for the greater good. “This will have a huge short-term impact on business and necessary services must continue to be delivered but with proper controls. However, this short-term impact will have long term gain as we limit the spread and, ultimately, the loss of elderly and vulnerable people. Public health is number one but we will also get back to normal routine, or as close to it as is feasible, a lot quicker from a business perspective if we act swiftly.”

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