Councillors wants contingency pay fund for weather events

Councillors wants contingency pay fund for weather events
Fr Mathew Statue, Patrick's Street during Storm Emma. Pic; Larry Cummins

A CORK City Councillor has called on the government to develop a contingency fund to cover lost wages during major weather events.

Northside councillor Thomas Gould has said that many people simply can’t afford to take the hit associated with business closures during red weather events like the recent snowstorm.

Record levels of snow fell in Cork city and county on March 1 and 2, prompting a complete closure of schools and public buildings, with the vast majority of businesses shutting too.

While some employees were able to take holidays or to work from home, many others simply lost out on two days earnings, according to Mr Gould.

The Sinn Féin councillor has called on the government to implement an emergency contingency fund, made available to small businesses during red warnings.

He said that businesses could pay employees as normal and then, subsequently, claim the money back from the State.

“A fund should be allocated for employers who can’t afford to bear the costs,” Mr Gould said.

Fallen trees on Centre Park Road after Storm Pphelia. Pic; Larry Cummins
Fallen trees on Centre Park Road after Storm Pphelia. Pic; Larry Cummins

“I don’t think it is right that during a red weather warning that people lose out. These businesses were closed under a government-issued directive and some people can’t afford to take the hit.

“There haven’t been too many of these warnings either so, for the State, this wouldn’t be too significant a cost but for small businesses or the workers affected, it could make a huge difference.”

Mr Gould said that the closures disproportionately hit those on low to middle-income contracts, including part-time workers.

He said that many of the country’s biggest companies are more than capable of sustaining the hit, while many multi-nationals also have measures in place to ensure that employees can work from home or take holidays to cover the time.

“Smaller employers, people who have maybe three or four people working for them, can’t afford to take such a hit,” he said.

“And neither can their employees; it’s that simple. Since late last year, there has been three days lost due to these warnings: Storm Ophelia and now the snow storm.

“While three days might not be a lot to some people, it is a huge amount to others.”

The storm resulted in the longest standing-up of Cork City Council’s local crisis coordination centre and ‘tested the council’s emergency management system to the fullest extent’, according to city chief Ann Doherty.

She reported that more than 300 calls were logged via the city’s emergency freephone number over the course of the weather event, while the city also coordinated responses with the civil defence, the defence forces and an Garda Síochána, amongst others.

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