Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Enterprise, Trade and Employment): Statements
I have a few points I wish to make and I hope the Tánaiste will have time to respond to them. The points relate generally to the aviation sector, which has probably been the most exposed and ravaged by the onslaught brought on by the Covid crisis. The first issue relates to the maintenance, repair and operations, MRO, sector, which is a significant part of the aviation economy. It is very large in my constituency of Clare, around Shannon Airport, and also quite large in Cork and in the hinterland of Dublin Airport. There are 22,000 aircraft registered globally, many of which land in Ireland, are repaired and then take to the sky again. That cannot happen at the moment because aviation is not operating as it normally does. The sector has been very reliant for the past number of months on the EWSS and it is looking for some indicators today and in the coming weeks that the scheme will be extended until such time as the sector recovers.
Of equal importance is the IDA Ireland training grant. Many operators in the MRO sector are taking on college graduates and undergraduates to work in their hangars and other facilities where they are provided with really high-quality training. They are very reliant on IDA Ireland training grants to facilitate that. They have a cohort of staff over and above what is required at the moment to maintain aircraft but they can only retain them with the continued support of IDA Ireland training grants. That is important.
The final point I wish to raise concerns the Kurzarbeit, which is a very innovative and successful scheme operating in Germany. It is basically a short-time work benefits scheme which encourages employers to keep on employees, in some cases reducing their working week to 60% but, crucially, not laying them off. When taxation is adjusted, it ensures that people are not significantly down on their income. When people's pay is not significantly reduced, it means that their money and everything they spend circulates in the economy. By and large, it has been viewed, both within the European context and globally, as a very successful model for keeping income going to employees, not having workers laid off and ensuring people can weather everything Covid has brought. Has the Tánaiste encountered that scheme, has he been briefed on it and might he consider introducing something similar here?