Taoiseach says Government following commission advice on minimum wage

Increase of 30c will only be introducted in event of orderly Brexit, Dáil hears

Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan: claimed minimum wage decision was a ‘political choice’. Photgraph: Aidan Crawley

Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan: claimed minimum wage decision was a ‘political choice’. Photgraph: Aidan Crawley

 

The Government is following the recommendation of the Low Pay Commission that there should only be an increase to €10.10 in the minimum wage if there is an orderly Brexit, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted.

He said he wanted to clarify that it was the commission’s recommendation that the 30c increase from January should apply “based on there being an orderly Brexit”.

Mr Varadkar’s comments came as Sinn Féin called for the introduction of a “living wage” of €12.30 an hour.

Labour finance spokeswoman Joan Burton had earlier reminded the Taoiseach of remarks he made some months ago about how proud he was that the minimum wage would break through the €10 barrier and go from €9.80 to €10.10.

But in the Budget she said the increase was to be “parked indefinitely” and this was a bad decision and put poor people at enormous disadvantage.

Later, in a private member’s motion, Limerick TD Maurice Quinlivan said the Government claims that it was the commission’s recommendation “simply won’t wash”.

He said that to not even increase the minimum wage “was a slap in the face to the 137,000 workers earning the minimum wage”.

‘Out of touch’

He said that €9.80 an hour was “simply too low and workers are struggling to get by on it. Workers have waited long enough for proper pay and conditions.

“We want to see a living wage - which is a rate of pay that would allow workers to pay for the basic necessities of life, to live with dignity, and to participate fully as active citizens in our society.”

And he accused the Government and Fianna Fáil of being out of touch “when even the Tories in England are supporting a living wage - and you’re not”.

Mr Quinlivan said the Government’s decision was not about Brexit. “This was a political choice.”

He said “legal protections already exist to support businesses who may find themselves in a difficult financial situation - and this would be the case in a no-deal Brexit”.

But Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty said that many of those in need meet the living wage threshold when all additional benefits are included.

“When you add on top of the minimum wage the other social transfers available to the low-paid - whether it is family income support, back to school allowances, fuel allowances, dependent child allowances and others - the amount provided to many of those in need would meet if not exceed a living wage rate,” she said.

The minimum wage had increased by 13.3 per cent since 2015 and was now the second highest of any EU country at €1,656 a month, behind Luxembourg, where the minimum wage is €2,071 a month.