COVID-19 has created an interlinked health and economic emergency. This pandemic has cost lives and already has driven numerous businesses to closure causing a huge number of job losses which are reflected in the latest labour market statistics which show the second highest number of redundancies ever during a period when the furlough scheme was meant to protect jobs.
Businesses have invested millions of pounds in making their businesses safe for staff and safe for customers. Business has endured a once in a lifetime impact on trading since March. It has been an unprecedented period of uncertainty and challenge. After finding the fortitude to keep going after months of lockdown, restrictions and closure earlier this year, many believed that they were starting to see light at the end of the tunnel only for that to now be extinguished. But still they stand ready to work with the Executive to protect lives and livelihoods, but we need support.
Closing down businesses is a blunt instrument that will struggle to retain the support of people who see it diluting their household incomes each and every time it is deployed. Lockdown after lockdown is simply not sustainable.
What is most concerning is that the Executive appears to be on a course to repeat their lockdown strategy again and again and again. We cannot stress strongly enough how deeply, deeply damaging this would be to the Northern Ireland economy. Fewer and fewer firms will survive each lockdown and more and more jobs will be lost, easily sending 100,000 people as estimated by the Department for the Economy to the dole queues with poor prospects of being reemployed in the short to medium term. The effect of long-term unemployment on people’s physical and mental health is well known and will also plunge families into poverty. Surely that is a scenario that none of us want to see and should be avoided at all costs. That is why we need to strike a balance to protect lives and livelihoods.
Pursuing a path of lockdown, release and repeat will undo all of the good work we have done to build a strong and diverse economy and protect workers and their families. If a vaccine for COVID-19 is still months away from being available, then we must genuinely learn to live with the virus if we want to preserve our economy and have jobs for people to return to. A DIFFERENT WAY MUST BE FOUND.
NITA have joined with 22 other business organisations to propose our 3 POINT PLAN TO PROTECT LIVES AND PROTECT LIVELIHOODS
This is about Communication, Compliance and Compensation and Support
The purpose of our 3 Point Plan is to keep the Northern Ireland economy open and give businesses the best possible chance to survive and keep employing people whilst simultaneously investing in better communication, compliance and support so that all businesses and social enterprises are as safe as they can be and that we continue to play an important role in combating COVID-19. The coronavirus pandemic is posing a massive threat to people’s health, but the strategy currently being pursued is posing as big a threat to jobs and livelihoods. A ‘rinse and repeat’ plan just won’t work.
Let’s work together – business and government – to supress the spread of COVID-19 across our community and ensure that our people have jobs to support their families.