Northern Ireland news

UK Government intervention 'could save hundreds of thousands of jobs' in the north

 Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Ryan McAleer

THE British government’s unprecedented decision to guarantee 80 per cent of salaries of employees faced with redundancy could save hundreds of thousands of jobs in the north, it was claimed last night.

In a move designed to encourage employers to keep staff on the books, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government will cover up to £2,500 per month for every worker for at least three months.

The announcement sent an immediate wave of relief throughout the north’s hospitality sector, offering hope to thousands of workers already left out of a job in the past week.

It also offers a lifeline to the airline industry, coming just hours after Ryanair said all staff would take a 50 per cent wage cut, and for EasyJet’s workforce, as it prepares to ground its entire fleet.

Economy minister Diane Dodds described the state intervention as “unprecedented in the history of the UK”.

Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster said the industry had been decimated in a matter of days with thousands of redundancies and temporary lay-offs.

“This has been the biggest economic shock in living memory,” he said. “This will save and retain jobs and businesses alike."

Kirsty McManus, who heads the Institute of Directors in the north, said the Chancellor’s commitments were “exactly what is called for in these unprecedented times”.

“This is a huge measure that could save hundreds of thousands of jobs across Northern Ireland.”

In a further boost to business, the Chancellor said no business will pay VAT until mid-June.

Angela McGowan of the CBI said it marked the start of the economic fightback against coronavirus.

“The Chancellor’s offer of substantial payroll support, fast access to cash and tax deferral will support the livelihoods of millions. Firms and employees will respond with relief and determination.”

That relief was evident across the manufacturing sector last night, in a week where many markets simply collapsed.

It’s also a lifeline to employers like O’Neills, who moved to lay off 750 people on Thursday evening.

Stephen Kelly of Manufacturing NI said: “With orders in short supply, it is a chance for our firms to repurpose to make the things our health system needs and retrain and redesign our factories to ensure that when we get through this pandemic we are better positioned to restart and win more business".

Derry Chamber president Redmond McFadden said: “The Chancellor’s message to the business community this afternoon was clear – do not permanently lay off your workers just yet.

“This is an announcement which will ensure thousands of local workers will continue to be able to sustain their households, provide for themselves and their families, and will have a job to return to once this crisis is over.”

Ann McGregor of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce said businesses were being given desperately needed breathing room.

“As a next step, the government now needs to go all out to ensure that details of the job retention scheme and loan guarantees reach firms on the ground as soon as possible.”

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