Business leaders’ letter demands dates from Stormont to save jobs
Business leaders from across Northern Ireland have joined forces to pen an open letter to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister warning that many of those on furlough could lose their jobs without a “a proper, timetabled plan for reopening”.
The 407 signatories from across the region who employ thousands of people in a range of sectors, including hospitality, said their companies “need both hope and some certainty” to avoid “the devastating mental health impact that flows from high levels of unemployment and avert a looming jobs crisis that will hit households in every constituency”.
And Andrew Lynas, one of those who signed the letter to Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, insisted there had been “a failure of leadership” from the Executive and a failure to “engage with the business community and ask how can we help”.
The Lynas Food Services boss added: “There’s been a total a lack of acknowledgement that hospitality accounts for 21% of jobs in Northern Ireland – from a pub or restaurant to the supply chain or manufacturing.
“The debate has been framed as health versus economy which I think has been very unhelpful.
“I suppose what we feel is we need a plan. We were told it was data not dates – and all of the data is positive. Fifty percent of this country now has antibodies, less than 4% of hospital beds now have Covid patients in them and the vast majority of new cases are in under 40s.
“Tell us when retail, coffee shops, restaurants and pubs will open. Scotland Wales and England have been able to give us those dates so what different data are you seeing than those other nations who are giving indicative dates?
“Because of the NI Protocol and Brexit our supply chains have lengthened so we need a number of weeks not just days to prepare.”
The letter he added his name to continued: “You will not need to be reminded that businesses right across Northern Ireland are seriously struggling.
“The support that the Executive have provided has certainly helped, but it cannot possibly insulate all businesses from all of the effects of this crisis.
“Many have mounting debts, having already consumed what reserves they have. They are paying money out every month to try to keep their businesses afloat and their staff in jobs even though they have no income whatsoever.
“We are increasingly anxious that without a timely reopening of our economy, a huge amount of the more than 100,000 people on furlough in Northern Ireland will be made redundant.”
The business leaders urged the Executive to work with them to “begin moving towards recovery” which they insist “cannot commence until all of our economy is reopened”.
The letter to Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill concludes: “Let us begin on the road to recovery, secure jobs and start to rebuild our economy and stave off a jobs and economic catastrophe that will reverberate for many years to come.
“We would greatly welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues and our concerns with you both in more depth.”