Burton says Labour should focus on wage growth for working- and middle-class families

Minister says economic recovery must come from middle out rather than top down

The  Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton:  likely to express support for legislation to guarantee collective bargaining

The Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton: likely to express support for legislation to guarantee collective bargaining


Wage-led growth is the most viable and effective strategy for economic recovery, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton is expected to tell her party conference today.

In a speech set to emphasise the need to focus on a “living wage” policy for working and middle-class families, she is likely to stress that recovery must come from the middle out rather than the top down and that the Government needs to safeguard wages from stagnation as the economy begins to recovery.

In a speech last night she said the challenge was to continue the progress that had been made and to “ensure the new economy works for families rather than financiers – with full employment and a fair wage the central goals”.

Today the party deputy leader is expected to tell delegates that a recovery that does not improve the living standards of ordinary families will be no recovery at all.

Ms Burton is also expected to remind the conference that the earnings of the middle and working classes have always fuelled Irish economic expansion, and that growth in their wages will be central to real and lasting recovery.

The Labour deputy leader is likely to remind her colleagues that the party had yet to offer workers a reliable remedy to the unprecedented threats to living standards, and that wage growth should be the strategy the party and the trade union movement pushes in the coming months.

She is also likely to express support for legislation to guarantee collective bargaining, which Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore announced to the party last night.

The Minister has previously called for an end to austerity and is expected to tell the conference wages have stagnated while profits skyrocketed.

Last night she highlighted the improvement in unemployment figures with the return to work of 58,000 people in the last year.

Ms Burton said the deficit reduction programme remained necessary. “We simply had to get our public finances in order.” However, the Labour Party was determined to do it in the fairest way possible. That was “why I have focused on transforming the department from the passive benefits provider of old to an active and engaged employment service”.

There were still too many unemployed, which was why they had introduced the Pathways to Work strategy focusing on activation.

The Government would spend €1 billion next year on work, training and education places for jobseekers. “That is why we are rolling out the new-style social welfare ‘Intreo’ offices – where jobseekers don’t just get income support, but also get employment supports.”

She said since JobsPlus, the wage-subsidy scheme for employers, was launched in July, it supported the creation of 1,000 jobs. Youth unemployment had fallen from 31 per cent to 26.5 per cent.

She said the youth guarantee agreed with the EU to give those under 25 employment, training or education within four months of losing their job would be introduced on a phased basis in Ireland.