Anti-treaty group 'dishonest' on minimum wage


CÓIR:ANTI-LISBON Treaty group Cóir was yesterday accused of trying to mislead the public by suggesting the minimum wage could be lowered to €1.84 if voters ratify the treaty.

Cóir, which describes itself as a voluntary, non-profit campaign group, said the Lisbon Treaty posed a “serious threat to all European workers” by undermining the rights to a “living wage”.

Its spokesman, Brian Hickey, said the EU court was repeatedly undermining this right, and the Government was “leading the charge” to lower the Irish minimum wage.

Mr Hickey said the average hourly minimum wage rates set by the EU’s 12 accession countries – mostly from eastern Europe – was €1.84. He claimed subcontractors, employing workers from former accession states, have got the EU courts to agree that wage agreements set by wealthier EU countries such as Ireland may be set aside. The treaty would copperfasten this, he said.

“Who knows where this is going to end?” asked Mr Hickey. “In these difficult times, Irish workers need the protection of the legal right to earn a living wage. But the EU court has found against that right repeatedly. Our poster begs the question – will the right to earn even the minimum wage come under attack post-Lisbon?”

Minister for Labour Affairs Dara Calleary condemned Cóir’s “scaremongering” that voting Yes could reduce the minimum wage. “The Lisbon Treaty has nothing to do with the minimum wage one way or the other. This is yet another smokescreen to deliberately confuse people.”

He said the minimum wage in Ireland was set down in Irish law under the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000. Under this legislation it could only be varied by the Minister on foot of a recommendation made by employers and unions. “If you work in Ireland, you cannot get less than the minimum wage. The EU cannot change that, the European Court of Justice cannot change that, and the Lisbon Treaty certainly cannot change that.”

The Charter Group, which comprises trade unionists who are campaigning for a Yes vote, said Cóir’s statements were “dishonest”. Its spokesman, Blair Horan, said: “There is no basis whatsoever for this ludicrous claim, and none of the European Court of Justice decisions referred to by Cóir made any reference to changing national statutory minimum wage rates.”