Burton expects report to call for minimum wage increase

Tanáiste criticises ‘predatory capitalism’ involved in Clerys department store closure

Tánaiste Joan Burton supports the living wage initiative which calls for a minimum wage rate of €11,45 per hour.

Tánaiste Joan Burton supports the living wage initiative which calls for a minimum wage rate of €11,45 per hour.

 

Tanáiste Joan Burton has said she expects the Low Pay Commission to recommend an increase in the national minimum wage when it produces its first report in the next few weeks.

Speaking at the biennial conference of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) in Ennis, she said the minimum wage - currently set at €8.65 per hour - represented protection against exploitation. However she said it was not a guarantee of fair wages.

Ms Burton said she was a strong supporter of the broader living wage initiative which calls for a rate of €11,45 per hour.

However she said she believed that the living wage should operate “as a voluntary benchmark as has happened successfully in some major cities” rather than be put in place on a statutory basis.

“What we are looking for is a new consensus, both at national and at European level, of what constitutes a wage that is enough to provide for a decent standard of living.”

Ms Burton also forecast that the cost to the State of meeting the cost of redundancy payments for former staff of the Clerys department store could run into the millions although she did not yet have a final figure.

She described the events that took place at Clerys as “predatory capitalism”.

She said she would “use every legal avenue to vindicate the State and taxpayers’ rights in this regard”.

“I don’t believe it’s right that the owners can act as they did while leaving workers in the lurch and the State facing the redundancy bill.

The Tanáiste said there were “better things to do with social protection money than bailout Clerys”.

Ms Burton said she unambiguously wanted to see wage increases this year and next in all sectors of the economy where employers could afford to pay more.

She said the Government would play its part in increasing take home pay.

She said in the forthcoming Budget, the Government would continue to reduce taxes on low and middle-income workers.

The Tanáiste said she hoped the proposed new Lansdowne Road deal on public service pay would be accepted by trade unions.

She warned that “not everyone in Leinster House believes that the restoration of public service pay is a political priority”.

“There are some who are actively hostile to any such idea.”

Ms Burton said she wanted to see an agreement that could “bring an end to the very real humanitarian crisis in Greece”.

“I want to see a deal that will put Greece on the road to economic recovery.

Above all, I want Greece to remain an active member of the euro zone, and for all members to resist complacency about the potential effects of Greece being left, or forced, to exit.”

“But let’s be clear: this will be a long, hard road and the Greek government will have to play its part.”

Responding to the Tanáiste, Ictu general secretary Patricia King - who is a member of the Low Pay Commission - warned the current process was “very difficult”.

She said in side engagements some employers had suggested the mechanisms for reducing the minimum wage were not sufficiently strong.

She said in dealing with the minimum wage issue, trade unions “would stand up and not forget where they came from”.