Business groups plead with executive to urgently engage on protecting lives and livelihoods

Four local business organisations that were amongst a coalition of 23 business groups, trade bodies and local chambers of commerce which wrote to the First Minister and deputy First Minister over a fortnight ago with a 3 point plan aimed at protecting lives and livelihoods have called for urgent engagement with the Executive.

Belfast Chamber, Hospitality Ulster, Manufacturing NI and Retail NI want to discuss what efforts the Executive is making to develop a different strategy to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and how business and government can work better together successfully supress the spread of COVID-19 across the community and ensure that our people’s jobs are saved.

In a joint statement, Simon Hamilton, Chief Executive of Belfast Chamber, Stephen Kelly, Chief Executive of Manufacturing NI, Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster and Glyn Roberts, Chief Executive of Retail NI said:

“Just over 2 weeks ago, on behalf of our thousands of members and tens of thousands of people they employ, we reached out to the First Minister and deputy First Minister and encouraged them to work closely with industry to find a better balance to protect our community and our economy and save both lives and jobs.  We proposed a comprehensive 3 point plan making reasonable, sensible suggestions aimed at improving communication, compliance and compensation-.

We have noted the positive comments made by the First Minister and the deputy First Minister expressing that they want to develop a different strategy which moves us away from the present approach of repeated lockdowns.  However, as of yet, we have had no engagement from the First Minister and deputy First Minister regarding our proposals.

We believe there is much to be gained by engaging with business in the development of an alternative approach given that our firms are impacted by restrictions, will be delivering any new safety interventions and our experience in leading staff and dealing with the general public.

Crucially, given the fact that we are now into the third week of four weeks of restrictions, it is absolutely imperative that progress on finding and implementing a new strategy is made immediately. 

Time is of the essence. We have two weeks until the current lockdown ends.  These next two weeks must not be wasted. Business wants to work with our Executive to develop a clear strategy that suppresses the spread of the virus and keeps people in employment ahead of the critical Christmas period. We plead with the First Minister and deputy First Minister to stop doing things to us and instead work with us, act jointly and together take the necessary steps to protect both lives and livelihoods”.