Heather Humphries, Minister of Social Welfare, criticized Er Lingus for his approach to claiming income support for workers. They admitted that they were left in a terrible condition due to declining income due to the epidemic.
The minister said it was difficult to understand how an organization the size of Er Lingas could have problems in interpreting the criteria for the Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) and the short-term work scheme when there are so many small businesses across the country. There was no such problem.
The minister was responding to a question from Sinn Finn TDs Darren O’Rourke, Louis O’Reilly and Claire Keran about the recent difficulties faced by Air Lingus officials in accessing social welfare rights after a 70% cut in pay and hours.
Until August 31, the airline’s workforce was supported by a temporary wage subsidy scheme – from September 1, the company provided up to $ 203 a week in employment wage subsidy to eligible workers.
However, multiple employees affiliated with the RTE and politicians were shown pay-slips showing a sharp decline in income and inquiring about how to pay mortgages, rent and other bills.
Under normal circumstances, short-term workers are entitled to claim income support on non-working days.
However, despite a significant drop in revenue, several officials reported that Air Lingus refused to sign the relevant forms to submit claims for social welfare top-up payments.
The airline was blamed for the confusing advice from the department and revenue commissioners, but last Friday the company told officials that the department had confirmed eligibility for the benefits.
Minister Humphries confirmed that he had received correspondence from the Erlingus staff about their plight – and acknowledged the “great pressure” now being felt by many influential workers.
After explaining how the short-term job arrangement works, including the fact that employers have to fill out certain forms, she commented that since the EWSS came into effect on September 1, thousands of companies have converted to it without any impact on their workers.
However, they criticized Aer Lingus management: “Therefore, it is difficult for businesses across the country to understand how an organization the size of an Aer Lingus with a dedicated HR department can interpret the standards around EWSS and short-term work.”
Despite that fact, Ms. Humphries said her primary concern is with affected workers and ensuring that their rights are made available to them.
The Minister said that Er Lingus had today advised the airline to immediately provide their employees with any documentation required to finalize an application for the support of job seekers.
She said she has asked officials to prioritize decisions on these applications to ensure that claims are closed as soon as they are received.
Er Lingus responded that weeks before the launch of the EWSS, clarification was sought from the Department of Labor and Social Welfare on a number of key issues regarding how the project would work.
However, it stated that “… failed to receive that clarification from the department”.
The statement said that the minister had written to Humphries on September 7 regarding these issues.
When the Minister did not respond personally to questions, Airlingas had constructive discussions with his department, giving the requested clarity at this time.
It states: “Er Lingus has always acted in accordance with the guidelines issued by the DASP and the Revenue Commissioners. We believe that the issues related to EWSS have now been resolved and an approved process has been implemented with the DASP.”