Coalition concern over EU law on minimum wage and worker rights

Labour accuses Varadkar of seeking to ‘hobble’ draft directive on entitlements

The department said this Government and the previous administration had introduced several increases to the minimum wage, resulting in Ireland now having the second highest minimum wage in the European Union.

The department said this Government and the previous administration had introduced several increases to the minimum wage, resulting in Ireland now having the second highest minimum wage in the European Union.

 

The Government is concerned that proposed new EU legislation could result in the introduction of a “lowest common denominator approach” to the minimum wage and workers rights, the Department of Employment has said.

The Labour Party on Sunday accused Minister for Employment Leo Vardakar of seeking to undermine a draft EU directive on workers’ rights before it could get off the ground.

Labour Party Senator Marie Sherlock said at the end of January Mr Varadkar had signed a letter along with seven other European employment affairs ministers which she said sought to “hobble” the proposed new directive.

The letter said that in late October last year the EU Commission had presented proposals for a directive on adequate minimum wages in the European Union.

The letter signed by the group of European employment affairs ministers, including Mr Varadkar, said: “Although the proposed directive is presented as a framework with different solutions for different labour market models, we will need clarifications of the text to proceed with our analysis. We feel that a recommendation is a better legal instrument, which provides the flexibility for Member States to achieve the objectives of the proposal. Whatever form, any EU action needs of course to respect the boundaries of the Treaties.”

The letter was also signed by ministers from Austria, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Hungary, Malta and Poland as well as Ireland.

A Department of Employment spokeswoman said on Sunday that along with the Nordic countries Ireland was “concerned that an EU law might result in a lowest common denominator approach to the minimum wage and workers rights at a time ours are better than the current EU average in most areas”.

“The Tánaiste has a strong record in improving and protecting workers’ rights including introducing paid paternity leave, and extending PRSI benefits to the self-employed and he will continue to do so in his role as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment with commitments to making sick pay mandatory and progressing a living wage.”

‘Solo run’

The department said this Government and the previous administration had introduced several increases to the minimum wage, resulting in Ireland now having the second highest minimum wage in the European Union.

Senator Sherlock said the intervention by Mr Varadkar was “disingenuous” and described the move as “a solo run”.

“This draft directive, if enacted, will represent the single most important development for workers rights in decades. The directive stipulates that where countries have collective bargaining coverage below 70 per cent, they must put in place a framework for the enablement of collective bargaining to take place. Collective bargaining coverage in Ireland is just over 30 per cent.

“The letter represents an unholy alliance of countries encompassing those who already have excellent collective bargaining coverage such as Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Estonia and those who are anti-workers rights such as Hungary and Poland. By signing this letter, Ireland is firmly placing itself in the later category”