Chamber News

WIT main campusWaterford Chamber is calling on Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe to honour his commitment to intervene in the ongoing debacle over the Technological University of the South East.

During a meeting with Waterford Chamber Executive and business leaders last year, Minister Donohue said he would step in if agreements couldn’t be reached in a timely manner.

As of yet there has been no intervention and this week, following the announcement of the Munster Technological University, Waterford Chamber CEO Gerald Hurley has written to the Minister again asking for his intervention.

In the letter, Mr Hurley stated, “It is widely accepted by all stakeholders from across the business community and beyond that the creation of a strong university of international standing is essential to guarantee the future prosperity of Waterford City and the South East.”

PROJECT IRELAND 2040

According to Mr Hurley, “The role of new “technological” universities in regional development is explicit in the national development plan, Project Ireland 2040: “By creating institutions of scale and strength,” the plan indicates, “technological universities will bring greater social and economic benefits to their regions”. The centrality of a new university to Waterford is outlined in detail in the Regional Economic and Spatial Strategy for the Southern Region and in the Metropolitan Area Spatial Plan for Waterford city. In these challenging times for enterprise and for our community, the creation of a new university in the city will help attract talent and business and, through innovation and research, generate myriad transformative opportunities for new types of enterprise and business activity. The €200 million in research and innovation funding that has come to Waterford Institute of Technology in the last 20 years it has been estimated has generated a €1 billion impact on Waterford and the South East. Creating a Technological University will have impacts that are multiples of this.

CITY AMBITION

“The cities rightly are at the core of the national development plan and particularly the regional cities as counter-forces to the unsustainable growth of Dublin. At the moment, Waterford is the only city without a university. The city’s ambition, articulated in the MASP, reflects national ambition as set out in Project Ireland 2040. The lack of a university will continue to frustrate not just Waterford’s business community but will seriously compromise the ability of the city to reach the growth targets established by the national plan.

“Waterford stakeholders welcomed the pathway towards the creation of a university in the city that was outlined in the national strategy for higher education published in 2011 and the Technological Universities legislation that followed. The partnership between WIT and IT Carlow was recognised as presenting challenges but, with the combination of the obvious strengths of both organisations, stakeholders determined that the partnership would lend considerable weight to the future organisation and give it a very strong regional reach.

LACK OF PROGRESS

“It is incredibly disappointing therefore and most frustrating for Waterford stakeholders to observe the lack of substantive progress towards the creation of a new university for the city and region. We are aware of the need for academic staff in the partner institutions to be fully involved in the process and note that almost twelve months ago WIT academic staff voted overwhelmingly in favour of an MOU that gave comfort to staff on their future within the new organization. However, IT Carlow staff did not support this MOU and since then as far as we are concerned there has been no progress. This is extremely alarming.

“In the meantime, Munster Technological University has been formed, a university proposed, we note, for the province and for the Southern Region. We contend that a second university in Cork, however useful to that city, is not going to be in a position to support adequately the needs of stakeholders in the South East. However, in the vacuum created by the lack of progress in the South East, the positioning of a university in Cork as answering those needs gains momentum, however lacking in credibility such a proposition has.

IMMEDIATE ACTION

“In the summer of 2019, the government made a firm commitment to Waterford stakeholders to support the South East university project and if necessary to intervene to ensure the rapid resolution of any difficulties that might hold back this most critical development. There has been no such intervention to date, regrettably. A year has now passed.

“We are asking for immediate action by government in support of the creation of a Technological University in the city and region, recognising the imperative to create such an entity in order to realise national and regional development plans. We suggest the need for the government to take the initiative and create a structure independent of the existing organisations that will form the focal point for the project. We suggest the appointment without delay of an independent, senior educational leader to assist the current Presidents and their Executives in advancing the creation of the university with a firm focus on delivering what the region needs which is a university of quality, scale and impact. We emphasise: interventions of this kind were promised to stakeholders in the city a year ago and it is imperative that government makes good on these promises.”

Ahead of today’s (29th May 2020) Cabinet meeting, Chambers Ireland calls for Government to reform and extend the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) beyond its initial June deadline and ensure the right supports are in place to support business liquidity and jobs.

Speaking this morning, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “There have been indications that the Wage Subsidy Scheme will be retained beyond the initial 12-week period. However, as we approach the end of May, and as more and more businesses start to reopen, we are calling on Government to clearly indicate that the Scheme will continue beyond the initial deadline. Without this certainty, businesses cannot plan for their reopening until they know what the government will do to support them.

“The Wage Subsidy Scheme not only needs to be maintained, but it must also be reopened for new applicants and reformed so that it serves the needs of employees and avoids any further distortion of the labour market. Immediate action to ensure those workers who are returning from maternity leave and other forms of caring leave can be included in the Scheme. It would be an unfortunate legacy if, during this crisis, we were to create new obstacles to returning to the workplace for those with caring responsibilities.

“Our members are also seeking clarity on the issue of redundancies, and whether the deferral put in place under the Emergency Measures legislation in March, will extend beyond the “the period of 3 months commencing on the enactment of this Act”. This is causing considerable confusion for our members. We urge Cabinet to provide an update on this matter immediately.

“Finally, we have consistently called for the waiver on commercial rates to be extended beyond the proposed three month period, where Local Authorities receive central funding to replace the shortfall, so that it reflects the real impact of COVID-19 on business, their position on the roadmap and their ability to return to normal capacity.

“This relief must also be offered to all businesses who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, as opposed to just those who have closed completely. Government could use the criteria of 25% decline in revenue, as set out in the TWSS, to determine eligibility for support.  The last thing we need to do is introduce a waiver that is too narrow, and results in businesses opting to stay closed so they can receive support on commercial rates owed.”

  • Click here for the submission from Chambers Ireland to Minister Eoghan Murphy on the expansion of Rates Waiver
  • Click here for the submission from Chambers Ireland to Minister Paschal Donohoe on the reform of TWSS
  • Click here for the submission from Chambers Ireland to Minister Regina Doherty on Redundancy criteria 

Chambers Ireland is today (27th May) launching our latest Covid-19 business impact survey.

The target of this survey are the business owners and operators around the country, both those whose businesses have been affected by the Covid-19 crisis, and those whose businesses have not.

With Phase 1 of the reopening of our economy underway, we are seeking to understand the struggles that businesses are experiencing, including those that are reopening, those that have remained closed, and those that have managed to continue through the restrictions.

The survey will close at noon on Monday, 1 June and seeks feedback on revenue, employment issues, and the Government’s policy agenda.

Speaking earlier today Chambers Ireland’s Chief Executive, Ian Talbot, said, “This series of surveys have been incredibly useful in shaping our engagement with government on a variety of policy issues.

“Hard data significantly strengthens our hand when we are advocating on behalf of the business community; we have been able to highlight the divergences between different sectors of the economy and also different regions of the country.

“We are hugely grateful to the member companies of the Chamber network for the time that they have spent participating in these surveys, and hope that our successes in obtaining and advocating for supports such as the business restart grants, the commercial rates holiday, and the Wage Subsidy Scheme, go some way towards assisting business continuity in these difficult economic times.

“These schemes are not perfect, and we are continuing to work with members of all political parties to ensure that there is a clear understanding of the circumstances that businesses face throughout the cities and regions of Ireland.

“While hopefully the worst parts of this pandemic are behind us, the most challenging time for the business community lies ahead of us, as we try to navigate the challenges of the low-touch economy.

“We urge every business owner or operator to engage with our survey, it will be the best ten-minute investment of your day.”

Chambers Ireland Governance Webinar

Date: Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Time: 3 – 4PM

Registration essential – register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMoce-urD8qGNX-Lx1PqDO5DncL5VFb6Whf

ABOUT THE WEBINAR

If you are a director of a company then it is in these uncertain times that you must ensure that your governance is stronger than ever.

This seminar will focus on:

 

  • Board leadership in supporting the CEO and staff
  • Financial management and what to focus on
  • How to prepare for and run successful virtual board meetings.  We will draw on the findings from our global survey on Virtual Board Meetings we have just finished.  
  • 5 issues Directors need to focus on for the next 12 months

 

This one hour seminar will be led by David W Duffy, Founder & CEO of The Governance Company.

 

David W. Duffy is the founder of The Governance Company, (www.governance-company.com) a global provider of corporate governance programme using the blended learning model. It also provides governance advisory services and governance related research.

He graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a Bachelor of Business Studies Degree, is a Chartered Accountant and qualified with PWC in London. He holds an MBA from IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland.

He has extensive experience in advising on corporate governance, both in the public, private and not for profit sectors.  He has conducted over 150 governance assignments.

Publications: He is the author of the following publications:

  • “A Practical Guide to Corporate Governance” published by Chartered Accountants Ireland (2014)
  • “A Practical Guide for Company Directors” published by Chartered Accountants Ireland (2017)

He is a frequent speaker on governance at conferences and media contributor.

 

Skillnet Ireland logo

Skillnet Ireland is a business support agency whose mandate is to advance the competitiveness, productivity and innovation of Irish businesses through enterprise-led workforce development.

On their behalf, we are  working with our own member companies and across the manufacturing sector, to ensure that the right workforce solutions are delivered via networks like ours. These solutions will help to enable the successful re-emergence, recovery and growth of Irish manufacturing, post Covid-19.

​We would greatly appreciate it if you can complete the survey (see link to survey below)  to identify key challenges and opportunities facing your organisation, in order that real and meaningful supports can be provided to your business in the challenging times ahead.

This survey is anonymous and your input is invaluable. Please complete by Wednesday 27th May 2020, it should take no more than 15 minutes to complete.

[Link to Survey]

Following today’s (22 May 2020) launch of the Restart Fund, Chambers Ireland calls on Government to urgently commit to increased funding and a more expansive approach, so that businesses of all sectors affected can receive support.

Speaking today, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot emphasised the need for Government to engage more deeply with the reality of the economic challenges facing the business community and local economies across the country.

“The scale and scope of supports for business needs to be radically expanded. Today’s launch of the Restart Fund is welcome, and we are encouraging our members to make full use of the initiative. However, we need Government to accept the scale of the economic catastrophe which is upon us, and act accordingly.

As noted in today’s report from Goodbody, compared to our EU counterparts, Ireland has done nowhere near enough to support our local economies. Half measures, which do not engage sufficiently with the needs of the business community, are inadequate in the current circumstances.

Many sectors of the economy have been effectively excluded from the government supports introduced to date: for example, the self-employed are not eligible for the Wage Subsidy Scheme and Government has ceased the Business Continuity Grant within the past week.

We appreciate and value the Government response so far, in areas such as the TWSS and Pandemic Unemployment Scheme. However, as we now move from lockdown to reopening, the scale of the response that is needed to tackle this crisis should not be underestimated. Failure to take further appropriate action in support of business could leave us in a worse economic environment that will undo the achievements of the measures which have been introduced to date.

Immediately, liquidity is the most pressing concern. Indeed, it is grant aid, not debt-based solutions, that will be required. The Restart Grant, while a step in the right direction, needs to be significantly expanded, so that it can do more to support business.  Without these reforms, businesses will not be able to reopen and their former workers will continue to need direct government support. 

The EU Commission’s guidance for Ireland is clear - we need to “take all necessary measures to effectively address the pandemic, sustain the economy and support the ensuing recovery”. We must follow this advice. Economic shocks of this scale require more than marginal adjustments. Tinkering at the margins wastes time and cost our country opportunity and jobs.

In the medium to long term, much more will need to be done to support various sectors, but today we should focus on our members’ immediate concerns about liquidity. The time for action is now, every day’s delay hurts our country more.”

Chambers Ireland calls for the Government to:

  • Reopen and re-fund schemes like the Business Continuity Fund
  • Give certainty on commercial rates, supplementing Local Authority budgets accordingly
  • Expand the restart grants so that more businesses can access them
  • Publish the proposed legislation that will establish the €2 billion Pandemic Stabilisation and Recovery Fund
  • Publish a timeline on how long the TWSS will continue, for which sectors, and to what degree
  • Give extra funding to Local Authorities so that they can facilitate the changes to our town centres that will allow businesses to adapt

An Post CovidFollowing today’s (20th May 2020) announcement from An Post of its commitment of €2 million worth of practical supports for Ireland’s SMEs to get back to business, Chambers Ireland welcomes this new package of supports, which includes a dedicated eCommerce advice hub for SMEs, and complements the range of business supports already available from Government and the supports of local Chambers nationwide.

Speaking this afternoon, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “An Post’s commitment of €2 million in practical supports for SMEs is timely and will be a lifeline to many businesses who are endeavouring to innovate and transform their operations in response to COVID-19.

The new dedicated eCommerce advice hub is a particularly useful support for businesses who want to transition and grow their online sales presence during this challenging time. The hub will also put businesses in touch with vital networks offering key advice including the Local Enterprise Offices.

These supports, which will be available in communities throughout the country, complement existing supports that Chambers throughout our Network offer to local businesses. We look forward to working and collaborating with An Post as we support businesses in response to COVID-19.

Digital transformation has been a necessity for businesses as they respond to the ongoing challenges that COVID-19 brings. Practical supports, like those launched by An Post today, will be critical in supporting business to make this transition.”

Chambers Ireland welcomes the Government’s announcement today (15th May) that the first phase of lifting of Covid-19 restrictions will begin next Monday.

Speaking earlier, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive, Ian Talbot said, “It is with great relief that we can welcome the start of our society’s reopening, in the wake of this unprecedented economic lockdown.

“As we take our first steps along the road to recovery we should be immensely grateful for the efforts of all those who have worked so hard over the last two months to minimise the impact of this disease on our people; the doctors, the nurses, the healthcare assistants and the allied health healthcare professionals who have contracted this disease far more frequently than any other group in our society.

“And we have to think about how hard this has been on the thousands of people who have lost a family member over the last few weeks, both those who died of Covid-19 and those who were lost for other reasons but whose families missed out on the funerals which are so deeply embedded in how we process grief.

“And of course, there’s personal impact that each of us endures during these restrictions, having lost our freedom of movement, the comfort of friendship and family, those with disabilities have lost out on caring, while others have lost their employment. We have all suffered so that those who are most vulnerable to this disease received the treatment they needed.

“For our business community, this reopening will be the beginning of the most difficult period yet.

“We know that while many businesses will be able to reopen on Monday, many others will not. Even for those who can open in Phase One, for many reopening will take time.

“Restocking will have to happen – our logistic networks and supply lines have never experienced the kind of shock they have just received. Staffing problems will occur as people with conditions that make them vulnerable to the disease, or have dependents that still need to be cocooned or cared for, may no longer be able to work.

“And then there is the concern that what is now a tolerable level of infection becomes a second wave that undoes all the efforts and sacrifices what we have endured over the last two months.

“The worst-case scenario is that we see infection rates rise - too many become too sick too quickly and we end up having to go back down into lockdown. This graduated reopening of the economy that the government has outlined is both wise and necessary. To be over adventurous in relaxing these measures risks squandering what was so hard won. 

“Through our collective efforts we have made our lockdown a success; our challenge over the coming weeks will be to make the reawakening of our economy a success. The business community will need support in a way that it has never needed before as it struggles with circumstances that none of us could have planned for.

“The Restart Grants for small businesses that Minister Humphreys announced today is exactly the kind of measure that will be critical for certain businesses if they are to be able to make this reawakening of the economy a success.

“Our concern remains that the measures announced will require improvement, but in the interim we encourage all businesses to assess their eligibility and apply if they qualify. Other measures, such as wage supports, will need to continue too - we have seen in many European countries that even as businesses reopen, they do so with much lower volumes of trade. 

“As the Minister for Health has said, all the things we do in Phase One are done with risk associated. Good business involves taking risks in a measured, carefully managed fashion.”

Reboot Your Business 2Griffith College in association with Chambers Ireland and with the support of Skillnet Ireland, is offering a free nationally-certified management qualification for business managers to support them as they re-launch and reboot their business.

This online programme is supported by a series of webinars that provide guidance on current business challenges and enables managers to create their business development plans. All programme resources are available online.

Participants on the programme can benefit from funded mentoring, supported by Skillnet Ireland. A QQI Certificate in SME Management is awarded to candidates who successfully complete and submit their business development plans to Griffith College.

This week marks the mid-way point for the ten-week course.

Speaking today, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive, Ian Talbot said, “We’re very pleased to announce Skillnet Ireland’s support of the “Reboot your Business” partnership with Griffith College.

“While COVID-19 brings many challenges, there are also enormous opportunities for businesses to harness digital transformation, rebuild their operations and adapt to the post-COVID-19 economy.

“This partnership with Griffith College in delivering online education in Business Planning will be essential in supporting business in this transition. This, paired with the Mentoring programme which is supported by Skillnet Ireland, will play an invaluable role in supporting businesses through the crisis, so they can re-build, create jobs, and ensure the long-term resilience and productivity of their operations.”

Skillnet Ireland Chief Executive, Paul Healy, also encouraged businesses to continue to sign up for the free course, “Skillnet Ireland are pleased to partner with Chambers Ireland to support the ‘Reboot your Business’ programme business mentoring as part of our suite of COVID-19 supports. At this challenging time, I would encourage business owners and managers undertaking the programme to avail of the opportunity of mentoring to help navigate their immediate business challenges while preparing for a post COVID-19 recovery.”

Dr Tomás Mac Eochagáin, Griffith College’s Director of Academic Programmes, also commented, “We would like to thank all partners, industry experts and academic staff for contributing their time and expertise to this national business development initiative.”

To register for the programme, or to view the schedule, visit www.griffith.ie.

Chambers Ireland today (9th May 2020) welcomes the launch and publication by Government of the new National “Return to Work Safely” Protocol.

The Protocol serves as a framework to support employers and employees to put measures in place that will prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace when the economy begins to slowly open.

Speaking at the launch this afternoon, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “The process involved in re-opening the economy will not be a simple one. Ensuring the health and safety of workers, employers and consumers continues to be our shared goal. As businesses around the country plan for how they will adapt to operating during a pandemic, today’s Protocol will be an essential framework to enable that.

“The opportunity to collaborate and consult in the production of the Protocol is very much welcomed by our members. It is intended that this will be a living document and will respond to the changing circumstances we find ourselves in over the coming weeks and months. Our own priority has been to ensure that the Protocol is cognisant of the needs of SMEs, as well as larger companies, so that all businesses are supported to re-open, when the time is right.

“We would also remind Government that the process of re-opening will come with additional costs for many employers, as was found in research published by Chambers Ireland last week. These costs will impact viability in many cases. More financial supports, along with the expansion of grants, will be essential if employers are to restore jobs and successfully re-open within the parameters in place due to the virus. We welcome ongoing dialogue with Government on this matter.”

https://dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Return-to-Work-Safely-Protocol.html

Following today’s (8th May 2020) publication of CSO data on Live Register and Unemployment Figures, Chambers Ireland calls for significant state interventions to ensure that the hundreds of thousands of people now in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and other supports do not fall into long-term unemployment.

Speaking today, Chambers Ireland President Siobhan Kinsella called for short, sharp, agile interventions to ensure that those who are now in receipt of state supports can re-train, be redeployed and return to work.

“We know that the sectors that are hardest hit, like hospitality and tourism, won’t recover overnight. They will need significant support, particularly in terms of cashflow, to restart once it has been deemed safe and appropriate for them to do so. In the meantime, Government needs to take immediate steps to prevent those who have lost jobs because of COVID-19 from becoming long-term unemployed.

“The present challenges for the labour market are entirely different to what we experienced in the last recession, and this time, have little to do with skills obsolescence. While some sectors face enormous challenges because of the nature of the virus, others, such as healthcare and food distribution, continue to face labour shortages.

“State agencies like Solas and Skillnet have been extremely capable in addressing labour market issues that have emerged in recent years. There is now an opportunity, through strategic engagement with industry and business representative bodies, to tackle this issue and prevent patterns of long-term unemployment from emerging.

“Collaboration with industry, particularly SMEs, to create short, agile interventions to re-train and re-deploy those who are currently out of work will be essential if we are to maintain our competitiveness as an economy. Our message to Government is to work with business in finding solutions so we can minimise the scale of unemployment in the months to come.”

Also speaking today, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot noted the regional and sectoral impact of COVID-19.

“In no way can we assume that a “v shaped” recovery will follow the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. While the official CSO Live Register and unemployment figures show a rate of 5.4%, the significant numbers of people in receipt of the COVID-19 supports paint a truer picture of what has happened to the labour market since March.

“Chambers Ireland research published this morning highlights the significant impact on sectors such as tourism and hospitality, and how that damage is being felt more strongly in economies along the Atlantic seaboard.

“Sector specific interventions must be paired with a regional approach. Regional Skills Fora, who work closely with our member Chambers, must be appropriately resourced to address these challenges as they emerge.”

 

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