Santa Claus may have arrived at Blanchardstown over the weekend but Retail Excellence Ireland (REI) is giving its best Grinch impression. The industry lobby carried out a "survey" among its members following "increased speculation on wage increases". And the message is clear: shopworkers needn't come looking for a pay rise in 2015, and it is all the Government's fault.
Apparently 70 per cent of respondents said they were not in a position to increase wages next year, with 64 per cent blaming the Government’s decision in Budget 2014, announced back in October 2013, to “increase” employer’s PRSI to 8.5 per cent from 4.25 per cent previously.
REI deputy chief executive Seán Murphy said his organisation “believes it is responsible to ensure expectations are in line with the financial reality most employers are dealing with”.
Cantillon was surprised at the sheer scale of those citing PRSI as the main issue affecting ability to pay – comfortably ahead of rents and other operating costs or poor levels of trade. At least, surprised until the wording of the second question in the REI survey emerged. After an initial inquiry on whether respondents were "in a position to increase pay rates in 2015", the survey asked: "Is the increased rate of employer's PRSI (from 4.25% to 8.5% in Jan 2014) stopping you from increasing pay rates in 2015?"
Is that question not just a little leading for a “responsible” survey?
And what about the fact that, rather than “increasing”, PRSI rates were simply returning to their normal level after a two and a half-year window from July 2011 to December 2013?
All of which puts a different gloss on the “facts” of the situation and paints the REI survey as little more than a warning shot across the bows of low-paid workers.
The good news for retail workers is that only 91 REI members responded to the survey. Between them, they employ around 35,000 people – or just one in eight of all shopworkers across the State.