Preparing for Brexit

3 Sep 2019


The threat of Brexit has caused huge uncertainty for workers North and South of the Border. Congress has examined in detail this threat to jobs and business in “Preparing for Brexit – ICTU Proposals to support jobs and workers”. 

 The 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

A recent Government report stated ‘The impacts will be felt most notably in many exporting sectors, including agri-food, indigenous manufacturing and tourism, as well as in importing sectors, especially those characterised by just-in-time supply chains, such as parts of the retail sector.’

A Department of Finance/ESRI study says that ‘…recent literature would suggest that regions with a relatively large proportion of small, Irish-owned firms operating in certain sectors such as agriculture or food production to be hit harder as a result of Brexit. The Department of Finance (2017) also finds that the Border and South-West regions to be particularly vulnerable to the negative impact of Brexit.’

The author of the “Preparing for Brexit”, ICTU Policy Officer Ger Gibbons, said the proposed measures include a short-time work scheme.  He said “this 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 Humphreys 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

Ger Gibbons said ICTU 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 upskilling 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.   The Congress Preparing for Brexit document is available to download here.