Chamber News

Expert Group Remote Working Report 2020Waterford Chamber has welcomed the publication by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar of the National Remote Working Strategy “Making Remote Work” which commits to an acceleration of the National Broadband Plan, investment in remote hubs, reviewing tax treatment and introducing legislative changes on rights to request remote working.

Writing to the Tanaiste after the announcement, Waterford Chamber CEO Gerald Hurley said: “In light of Covid-19, a lot of us have become accustomed to working remotely and Government is right to acknowledge that this is the future of business.

“We now need to ensure this is funded correctly and that the Right to Request and Right to Disconnect supports flexibility, for both employers and employees, and are SME-friendly in their design.

“What is extremely important about today’s announcement is the examination of the National Broadband Plan. This is critical to the advancement of Waterford in terms of creating a circular link so underdeveloped areas of the city can be zoned for commercial purposes.

“Remote working paired with a National Hubs Strategy, could play a transformative role in reviving our towns, villages, and urban centre.”

Expert Group Remote Working Report 2020Chambers Ireland today (15th January 2021) welcomes the publication by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar of the National Remote Working Strategy “Making Remote Work”. The report commits to an acceleration of the National Broadband Plan, investment in remote hubs, reviewing tax treatment and introducing legislative changes on rights to request remote working.

Speaking this morning, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “The Strategy is an ambitious vision for the future of work in Ireland and the potential to transform the workplace into one that supports quality of life, inclusion and regional development. We welcome the alignment of the Strategy to other key government policies such as the National Economic Plan, the Climate Action Plan, the Town Centre Living initiative, and the forthcoming Sustainable Mobility Policy.

“Over the past few years, Chambers Ireland and our members have championed the benefits of flexible and remote working, and we commend Government on their commitment to ongoing consultation as the Strategy was developed, including their reference to authoritative research recently published by the Western Development Commission and the Whitaker Institute on Remote Work.

“Of particular importance to our members is the commitment within the report to examine the acceleration the National Broadband Plan and develop a National Hubs Network. The experience of the pandemic means that it is more important than ever that we ensure rapid delivery of high-speed broadband throughout the country.

“Remote working paired with a National Hubs Strategy, could play a transformative role in reviving our towns, villages, and urban centres. We particularly welcome the commitment to align hubs with childcare provision and access to public transport.”

Also speaking this morning, Chambers Ireland Director of Policy and Communications Emma Kerins noted the need for investment in skills and training.

“Through consultation and engagement with our members we know that many companies have been looking to leverage the benefits of flexible and remote working, even long before the onset of COVID-19. While we look forward to engaging with the Department on future consultation regarding a Right to Request and Right to Disconnect, we must ensure that such rights support flexibility, for both employers and employees, and are SME-friendly in their design. Government must ensure that a “right to request” is developed in a way that is cognisant of growing data that shows most employees would prefer hybrid, or blended forms of remote working.

“Most importantly, if remote working is to evolve in a way that supports competitiveness, productivity, and job creation, it must be complimented by an ambitious skills development strategy for managers and leaders, particularly in SMEs. We note commitments to expand training and skills development and we urge the Government to make urgent progress, particularly if we are to capitalise on the experience of remote working during the pandemic.

“Finally, remote working, as an element of wider flexible working, presents significant opportunities in creating a more equal workforce by boosting labour participation and making the place of work more inclusive. However, there is growing evidence, nationally and internationally, that the negative impacts of the pandemic on the workforce have been felt more strongly on women than on men, with women carrying more of the load when it comes to childcare, homes duties and home-schooling. Through feedback from members, there are concerns that the experience of remote working during the pandemic may harm career progression for women and potentially widen the gender pay gap. While these concerns are acknowledged within the report, as the strategy evolves, we call on the Department to closely monitor the impact of remote working on gender equality in the workplace.

“The consequences of COVID-19 for the health and economic well-being of Irish society cannot be understated. It is likely that we will be living with the destructive impacts of the pandemic for some time to come. However, with vaccinations in sight, it is important to look to the future and the legacy of our experience with the pandemic. The Department’s Remote Work Strategy is an ambitious set of targets that could have a transformative impact on labour participation, quality of life and regional employment. We look forward to working with Government over the coming months as it is implemented.”

Tommie RyanWaterford Chamber is delighted to announce the appointment of Tommie Ryan as Waterford Chamber Skillnet Network Manager.

Speaking on Tommie’s appointment, Waterford Chamber CEO Gerald Hurley said: “Tommie brings a wealth of experience to this role, particularly in terms of his engagement with the business community as Festival Manager for Winterval and Harvest among others.

“Tommie will be a very strong addition to the team and we look forward to working with him to expand the Network and continue to provide training and skills development for our business community.”

On his appointment, Tommie said: “I’m absolutely delighted to take on the position of Waterford Chamber Skillnet Manager, and I can’t wait to start working with the Chamber team and engaging with Chamber members to identify their training and skills needs. Being in a position to support businesses, employees, entrepreneurs and job seekers through training and development is both exhilarating and extremely rewarding, particularly in these difficult times.

“Waterford is a city of opportunity and we will be working with companies to ensure their needs are met in terms of developing our workforce and furthering the agenda of Waterford as the Capital of the South East and a great place to live, work, invest in and do business.”

Government must avoid under-reacting to scale of latest pandemic crisis - Chambers Ireland calls for expansion of business supports

Speaking this afternoon (6th January 2021) following Cabinet’s latest announcement, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot urged Government to expand financial supports for impacted businesses.

“The Government’s announcement this afternoon of tighter restrictions will not have been the start to the new year many businesses and local economies were hoping for.

However, with infection rates and hospitalisations beyond anything we have seen throughout 2020, the additional restrictions announced are essential if we are to limit infection and loss of life.

Our worst fears for the pandemic will likely come to pass in the next few weeks, so we all must work collectively to limit our movements so that we can keep each other safe and reduce the rate of infection.

While we must do all that we can to support the collective effort to keep people safe, there is frustration throughout communities that we find ourselves in this position again.

Relying on “personal responsibility” to manage behaviour during a pandemic must be abandoned. Our experience of re-opening the economy and existing alongside the virus has evidenced that this cannot work without systematic enforcement and approach.

For today’s restrictions to be effective, and for there to be any hope of sustainably re-opening parts of the economy when it is safe to do so, Government must ensure that appropriate checks and balances are in place.

The coming weeks and months are likely to be the most difficult we have experienced, but the end is in sight. When Budget 2021 was published last October, there was an assumption that no vaccine would be available this year. Thankfully, rollout has already begun and we can now envision normality sooner than might have been expected. Government finances should be well placed to support the economy in the intervening period.

Bearing this in mind, it is imperative that Government urgently expands and increases the supports available to impacted businesses. We must also move to focus on the exit strategy for viable businesses, which have been surviving based on the Government supports available but will need some breathing space to rebuild their businesses once the worst of the threat subsides.

With Exchequer Returns in a better position than expected, the availability of low-interest finance through the ECB, and Budget 2021 having been prepared on a very cautious basis, we cannot afford to under-react to the challenge facing us.

Without these interventions, the growing debt burden experienced by businesses will likely trigger a wave of insolvencies and job losses that will do permanent damage to local economies throughout the country, potentially coinciding with when we are able to return to some form of normality. Having incurred a deficit of €19 billion to support the economy in 2020, Government must continue to invest in the economy so we ensure viable businesses do not fall at the final hurdle.   

We call on our members and the wider business community to do what they can to support their staff, ensuring they work from home if they can do so, work with Government to ensure these new restrictions are impactful, and to make use of every financial support available.

Finally, Government and the EU must do everything possible to resources and accelerate the Vaccination programme, providing a much needed boost in morale to the economy and society.”

Waterford Gift Voucher Accepted HereThe Waterford Shop Local Git Voucher initiative has seen a six-fold increase this year, according to Waterford Chamber CEO Gerald Hurley.

The vouchers, which can be spent in over 190 outlets in Waterford City and Tramore, have become the go-to gift this Christmas as people endeavour to support local.

According to Gerald: “We put every effort into getting the shop local message out there this Christmas and we are delighted to see it has paid off for local retailers. We are proud to say over 250 Waterford companies supported the initiative this Christmas by buying vouchers for their staff, while our vendor partners The Book Centre and Waterford Credit Union also saw significant footfall with the public purchasing the vouchers as gifts.

“This Christmas we have had all hands on deck in the office processing orders and it has been a joy to do our bit to support the business community. The Waterford Shop Local Gift Voucher Scheme is an initiative by ourselves, Waterford City & County Council and the Waterford Business Group, which began six years ago and this has seen been the most successful by a mile.

“We are extremely proud of the people and businesses of Waterford who made a conscious effort to support the business community, particularly as they suffered so much this year. They can now be guaranteed that over €600,000 will be spent directly in Waterford and we look forward to the tills ringing in the New Year.

“As always, we ask people to exercise caution when shopping and please follow all government guidelines. We know the weeks after Christmas may be tumultuous but if we remain sensible and safe, we can face into the New Year with renewed optimism and the vouchers will go a long way towards kickstarting that.”

RLP laptopsThe Waterford Chamber Regional Leaders Programme has reached new heights before Christmas as a chance meeting has resulted in supporting people in Direct Provision.

The programme, which has been recognised a number of times nationally for its innovation, unites leaders and participants to share experiences and this is how Elaine Fennelly, CEO of Crystal Valley Tech and Anne Nolan of Waterford Integration Services came together.

According to Elaine, “When Waterford Chamber of Commerce commenced its Regional Leaders Programme, they had no idea the benefits would be so wide and diverse. 

Working together, they very quickly figured out a way that the ICT firms of the South East could support people in Direct Provision. Many ICT firms replace laptops quite frequently to keep up with the demands of hungry software, so they often have a pool of second- hand laptops. After an initial appeal by Elaine who is in regular contact with tech firms in the region, Sun Life and Radius Technologies, both based in Waterford, donated 34 second hand laptops. Sun Life’s Donna Tilson is one of the founders of Crystal Valley Tech, was only too happy to come on board, while Radius Technologies is one of the country’s growing technology firms, having expanded into both Cork and Dublin.

According to Elaine, “The business community in the South East has continued to stay connected throughout COVID-19 and the Regional Leaders Program has been a driving force in this -  meeting Anne and securing 34 laptops for families with limited income in Direct Provision is just one of a number of benefits of this programme and I am delighted to have been involved with it over the past four years.” 

Speaking about the Regional Leaders Programme, Gerald Hurley, CEO Waterford Chamber said: “Elaine and all of our leaders give so much to the programme and we are so grateful for that. The programme is designed by the business community for the business community, under the umbrella of Waterford Chamber and with the support of Waterford Chamber Skillnet and Bausch + Lomb.

“I was delighted to hear of how Anne and Elaine worked together to support our community and it reinforces our belief that the programme had to go ahead this year, in spite of Covid. Moving online with the one to one sessions and group sessions has meant we could expand our leader talent pool and the programme is going from strength to strength. This example of sharing knowledge and experience is exactly how beneficial the programme can be and we look forward to working with our leaders and participants for the remainder of the programme.”

 

Christmas in Tramore

Tramore Christmas 2020It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Tramore as new festive features seem to be popping up daily!

There was a genuine concern that Tramore would be left in the dark this Christmas as the urban renewal works on Main Street meant there could be no lights.

However, as Lynda Lawton, Operations Officer with Waterford Chamber explains, the community rallied around and brought Christmas to Tramore.

“Sadly because of Covid, we couldn’t plan our Christmas Festival like we did last year and the easiest thing would have been to postpone everything for this year and come back bigger in 2021. But when we heard there would be no lights, we just couldn’t let it go so thanks to the help of Waterford City & County Council, we have now have 10 different features around the town for the whole family to enjoy. You can visit each one in the safety of your own family bubble and all can be accessed on foot.”

As a nod to the amazing Windows of Winterval, there is a beautiful window installation on lower Main Street in the old Cherished Shop window and businesses have been pulling out all the stops to dress their windows as well.

A giant polar bear rests at the top of the hill outside Tramore Credit Union, while over at the Lower Prom the National LifeGuard Centre is lit up and there’s also a large Christmas tree going in on Monday.

The annual Council Christmas tree is in its usual location on Branch Road and there are two additional trees bringing a festive feel to the Railway Station.

On arriving in Tramore, you are met with the fantastic Tramore Tidy Towns Winter garden and the fabulous offering from Tramore AFC.

According to Lynda, “What the teams at Tidy Towns and Tramore AFC have done is stunning and you can’t help but smile when you see it. We were delighted to be able to provide lights to help them out and would encourage everyone to go down and see them. We also worked with Owen Byrne at Tramore Racecourse to install a large tree there and it looks fantastic.”

Meanwhile over the at Coastguard Cultural Station, there is a magnificent display of lights and again Lynda said they were delighted to contribute by sponsoring the Star of Hope, which shines over the Doneraile and is a poignant message at this time of year.

“Tramore is such a lovely town, with fantastic shops and restaurants, so we want everyone to come and enjoy it this Christmas. Alongside all the on street attractions we have put in place, you can also make a trip to the Enchanted Garden at Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens which is spectacular again this year. Then take a stroll around the town, shop locally and have a fun day out with your family.

“Of course none of this would have been possible without the support of Waterford City & County Council and EveryEvent, who worked tirelessly to bring the joy of Christmas to Tramore.”

Chambers Ireland welcomes this evening’s (27th November) announcement from Government regarding the end of Level Five Restrictions which will allow the reopening of parts of the economy from next Wednesday, 2nd December.

Speaking after the announcement, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “This evening’s announcement from Government will be widely welcomed by our member Chambers, and the businesses they represent. 

“The importance of the Christmas period for local economies cannot be understated. In the lead-up to this evening’s announcement our member Chambers have been strongly supporting shop local campaigns in their communities. We call on the wider community to work with us and be conscious of limiting social contacts throughout the Christmas period. 

“The Government has set out a timeline for the re-opening of the different impacted sectors over the coming weeks. We urge our members and the wider business community to look to the “Work Safely Protocol” and the updated HSE guidance, using face masks, PPE and proper ventilation as appropriate. By protecting staff and consumers, we will limit the chances of virus transmission and a potential third wave.

“As we proceed towards a lower level of restrictions, we want to remind the wider business community to avoid complacency and continue to interpret the restrictions conservatively, ensuring that any unnecessary congregation is reduced. If staff can work from home, then that is the only place they should be working from. 

“Finally, as a network, we continue to have concerns about the medium-term strategy for ensuring that the re-opening of local economies is sustainable. The “sawtooth” scenario we previously warned about (involving a series of stop-go restrictions in response to virus transmission) is not a sensible approach to managing the economy.

“That scenario leads to significant additional business costs associated with reopening and restocking. With limited capital reserves, and no appetite for new debt under ongoing uncertainty, many businesses will not be able to continue trading after a further round of closures in early 2021.

“Most importantly Government must ensure that:

  • Public health authorities are adequately resourced so that we can limit the consequences of future outbreaks.
  • We implement an effective programme which tests, traces, and isolates new cases as they emerge in the community
  • Early local interventions are used to quickly restrict future outbreaks, and
  • We develop sufficient capacity within the health service to cope with increased demands on our critical care services”

CelltrionWaterford Chamber is delighted to welcome Celltrion Healthcare as Chamber members and to support the role out of their onsite Covid-19 rapid screening service. This will see Waterford become the first city in Ireland to receive the service.

Celltrion have agreed to offer Waterford Chamber members discounted rates for the testing, which has already been provided to the senior intercounty hurling, football and camogie teams during this year’s All Ireland championships.

Welcoming the initiative, Waterford Chamber CEO Gerald Hurley said: “As the country is set to reopen, there is an urgent need for volume testing and speedy results. This offer from Celltrion will allow for this and we are delighted to be able to provide this service for our 600+ members.”

These sentiments were echoed by Independent TD Matt Shanahan who said: “I welcome the opportunity to see antigen testing rolled out in the South East which will offer employers Covid Screen Testing to augment the public health PCR Covid protocols. I am delighted that Waterford businesses will be the first to see this en masse.”

The service is a nurse led screening programme, which incorporates the use of Celltrion’s rapid antigen test kit-DiaTrust™. All testers are experienced at providing community based medical treatments and testing services for Covid-19 and a number of them have delivered RT-PCR testing on behalf of the HSE to Waterford businesses.

With Specificity of 100% and Sensitivity 95% (key accuracy measurement), DiaTrust™ is a best-in-class Lateral Flow ICA (immunochromatographic assay) test. It produces a qualitative, point-in-time result, in 15 minutes, using nasal swab sample.

Gerald explains how the offer will work. “Businesses who want to avail of the discounted rates can contact us directly and we will liaise with Celltrion on your behalf. They will then make direct contact with the company and make the detailed arrangements for the appointment.”

Screening will be conducted onsite during office hours Monday-Friday, by appointment with 48hours notice. Depending on volume, tests can cost as little as €30 each. Any positive results and then immediately referred to the HSE Covid Pathway.

Celltrion is a world leader in pharmaceutical production and innovation. DiaTrust™ is only available through Celltrion Healthcare to ensure the appropriate support service is provided with the product.

For more information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

North Quays Mall EntranceWaterford Chamber CEO Gerald Hurley has welcomed the funding for the North Quays project saying it is “a great day for Waterford”.

Following the announcement by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD of the approval of €80.6m in Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF), along with an additional with €30 from the Department of Transport, through the National Transport Authority, Gerald said: “€110.6m will go a long way towards the regeneration project that will be a game changer for Waterford and the South East.

“This is a prime piece of real estate, one of the best in Ireland if not in Europe and we have just been handed the key to unlock its potential. For years, the one stumbling block has been the infrastructure required to enable the development of the site. This funding will now resolve that issue and the potential it brings is limitless.

“It will re-enforce Waterford’s position as the Capital of the South East. This is the largest commercial development in Waterford and currently the largest urban regeneration project in the country and the impact it will have on our economy is a very positive step forward for future growth, in line with Project Ireland 2040.

“At this point we must acknowledge the hard work of all stakeholders involved in getting this funding over the line, namely Waterford City & County Council and Falcon Malls Real Estate and we are proud to have played our part in actively lobbying on the issue over the past number of years.

“This week also brought the announcement of Greenway funding to extend to New Ross which is fantastic and will see it run through the heart of the North Quays.

“In the midst of this pandemic, these are bright days. Let us be positive, work together and grasp this opportunity with both hands. Government have delivered, now it’s our time”, Gerald concluded.

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