A previously suppressed British government report has predicted that a no-deal Brexit would cause chaos to cross border trade in Ireland, drive firms out of business in the North and generate civic unrest and disruption to road transport.
The Operation Yellowhammer no-deal planning document also suggests that the automatic application of EU tariffs and regulatory requirements on goods crossing south across the border will severely disrupt trade.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has also warned of potentially devastating job losses across the country particularly in the agri-food sector where thousands of workers are members of SIPTU.
Congress has said that the threat of Brexit has caused huge uncertainty for workers North and South of the Border and has examined in detail this threat to jobs and business in its report “Preparing for Brexit – ICTU Proposals to support jobs and workers”.
Its key recommendations are:
- Establish a Short-Time Work Scheme to preserve jobs in firms at risk
- Establish a Brexit Adjustment Assistance Fund to upskill and retrain workers at risk while they are still in employment
- Ensure that the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund is able to support workers made redundant because of Brexit
- Involve both social partners in all Brexit-related preparations.
The author of the report, ICTU Policy Officer Ger Gibbons, said a Short-Time Work scheme “is intended to preserve jobs at firms temporarily experiencing low demand by encouraging work-sharing, while also providing income support to workers whose hours are reduced due to a shortened work-week or temporary lay-offs.”
A crucial aspect of such schemes is that the contract of an employee with the firm is maintained.
In Germany, a short-time work scheme had a significant impact on preserving jobs during the financial crisis.
The OECD states that short-time work schemes have played an important role in limiting job losses during the recession in a number of OECD countries. Congress General Secretary Patricia King said “we have asked Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphries to ensure that representatives of various Government departments are convened to ensure that such a scheme is developed urgently”
Another suggested measure is a Brexit Adjustment Assistance Fund. Gibbons said that Congress has been calling for the establishment of a Brexit Adjustment Assistance Fund (BAAF) to support workers whose jobs are most at risk from Brexit.
This instrument could be modelled on the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGAF) and the US Trade Adjustment Assistance Programme (TAA) but with the crucial difference that it would support workers currently in work rather than those who have been made redundant, as under the EGAF and the TAA.
For some workers, this up-skilling and retraining could take place in tandem with participation in a Short-Time Work Scheme. Congress also recommends that the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund is able to support workers made redundant because of Brexit and the necessity to involve both social partners in all Brexit-related preparations.