UCDSU Commercial Services Limited (UCDSU CSL) has ceased to pay the balance of shop staff’s wages currently on the COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, the University Observer has learned.
UCDSU CSL operates three shops on campus, in the student centre, the James Joyce Library, and the Engineering building.
UCDSU CSL originally committed to paying full wages up until the 29th of March when UCD campus closed down earlier this Semester.
From the 26th of March, however, UCDSU CSL have availed of the COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme. Under this scheme, the Government pays 70% of an employee's wages up to €410 per week. According to Revenue.ie, “Employers are encouraged to facilitate employees by operating the scheme, by retaining employees on their books and by making best efforts to maintain a significant, or 100% income for the period of the scheme”. UCDSU CSL had committed to paying the remaining 30% of the wages up until the 20th of April. On the 9th of April shop employees were informed that “company will be unable to continue to pay the 30% additional payment /employer top up to all Shop employees effective from Monday, 20th April 2020”.
Due to this, as well as the fact that “average weekly wages” for the scheme are calculated based on January and February and so include a large proportion of the Christmas holiday period, shop staff are now being asked to live on a fraction of what they would normally be paid.
UCDSU CSL’s CEO is the President of UCDSU, as per the UCDSU’s constitution, currently Joanna Siewierska. When asked if he agrees with the decision, and what he would do differently as President, Presidential Candidate Conor Anderson Stated “Based on what I know, I think the Union has acted fairly in a very difficult situation. As President I hope to not be faced with the kinds of decisions we are being faced with as a result of Covid-19, but I also hope that I would be able to act fairly again.”
UCDSU have responded to queries about wage payments. UCDSU President Joanna Siewierska has said;
"UCDSU CSL is bound by Revenue’s operational guidelines of the COVID-19 Temporary wage subsidy scheme. The reference period to calculate the average hours worked is controlled and set by Revenue. This criteria is the same to every business in the country that avails of this scheme."
"As trading in the three shops ceased on 12 March 2020, UCDSU Commercial Services Limited do not have the available funds to continuously pay any employees when no income is being generated to allow the company to pay employees."
"Senior members of UCDSU CSL wages have been impacted in exactly the same manner as all other shop employees. They are on the COVID-19 Temporary wage subsidy scheme."
"From 12 March 2020, it is the focus of UCDSU CSL to retain all employees during this extremely difficult and unprecedented period, we all have had to rapidly adapt to an ever changing situation developing around us. "
When asked about what input, if any, the elected officers of the Union have in the decision to not pay the remainder of wages, Siewierska responded;
"It is the responsibility of the SU President, with relevant staff, to take appropriate business decisions to sustain the financial viability and operations of UCDSU Commercial Services. The President is answerable to the UCDSU Board of Directors. The SU President is an active Board member. The Board has legal responsibility for the financial health of UCDSU CSL."