USI call for students to be entitled to €350 pandemic payment for work lost during summer months

In a press release today, the union stated that students will be “badly hit” by moves to reduce the Pandemic Unemployment Payment

The Union of Students’ in Ireland (USI) has called for the government to allocate adequate unemployment payment to students who will miss out on summer work due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

This follows Taoiseach Leo Varadakar’s statement yesterday that the unemployment payment is due to be cut for some part-time workers. 

The union stated that students’ are set to be “badly hit” by the moves to reduce the pandemic payment in the coming weeks. 

In a press release, USI urged the government to “take into account” the hours students would be expected to miss due to social distancing measures and to include this criteria in making any reforms for receiving the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

USI outlined that during the summer months, many students would be expected to work full-time hours in order to allow them to only work part-time during academic terms. Due to the ongoing health crisis, this is not possible for a large number of students. 

The USI statement said they are calling on the government to take into account the hours students will miss out on this summer when making any reforms of the criteria for receiving the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick explained: “The vast majority of students in Ireland would have taken on many more hours in employment during the summertime to pay rent, for living expenses and to save for the coming academic year.”

“The announcement by An Taoiseach yesterday that the Government plans to lower the payment for those working part-time before the pandemic was extremely worrying for students,” she added.

She stated: “We are calling on the payment that is made to students to be based on the increased hours they had planned for the summertime and allow them to receive the full payment of €350.”

“If that happens, they will still be receiving less than they would have in a minimum wage job for the summer, so are only asking to be treated fairly. As it stands, their payment would be reduced to €203,” she added.

She continued: “The fact that the Government plans to extend the Pandemic Unemployment Payment shows that they feel these jobs are not coming back any time soon.”

“All recent research has shown that younger workers are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 related unemployment as the jobs in retail, hospitality and tourism have been worst affected by the lockdown – all traditional places of work for students in the summer,” she said. 

This announcement by USI is followed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s statement yesterday, saying that the €350 weekly unemployment payment will be cut for some part-time workers. 

Varadkar said some people who were working part-time “will see their payment reduced but their weekly payment will still be more than they were earning on a weekly basis before the pandemic”.

Today, the Covid-19 Unemployment Payment was extended to the end of August. 

Speaking to Trinity News, USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick stated: “As you know, the majority of students who would work part-time during the academic year would work full-time hours during the summer period.”

She added: “At this moment, the majority of students would be working on a full-time basis but now they are being expected to live on €203 if they were earning less than €199 before this pandemic gripped our country.”

“Today, Minister Doherty said nobody’s money is being cut but that is in fact just simply untrue for students,” Fitzpatrick said. “They will most definitely be receiving less than they would have been working.”

She continued: “The full €350 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is less than they would have earned if they were making minimum wage during the summer.”

Shannon Connolly

Shannon Connolly is the Editor-in-Chief of the 69th volume Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister student of English Literature and Philosophy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.