Workers must get pay increases that match inflation, says Labour party leader

Unions are pushing for wage increases that keep pace with the recent surge in inflation

The Labour Party agrees with the trade unions that workers must get pay increases that match inflation, party leader Ivana Bacik has said.

With negotiations already under way in the private sector and due to begin this week in the public sector, unions are pushing for wage increases that keep pace with the recent surge in inflation.

“We in Labour have been saying for some time now that Ireland needs a pay rise,” Ms Bacik said.

“We are seeing seven per cent inflation and rising, a 22 year high, the rising cost of fuel and food and rent and childcare, and we need to see more measures adopted by government not just to tackle rises in prices, but also to ensure that incomes rise to meet the costs.”

Ms Bacik said she was meeting people all the time whose incomes were no longer sufficient to meet the cost of living, and that was why her party was supportive of negotiated wage increases and an immediate increase in the minimum wage.

Ms Bacik said she and party spokesman for finance Jed Nash had met with the ESRI and were conscious of the risk of inflationary spirals.

“But at the same time we are also conscious that many employers are already having to implement pay increases because they cannot retain or recruit staff otherwise. So there is already a momentum towards pay increases and that is right and proper. So we do agree with the unions position.”

Ms Bacik was speaking to The Irish Times at Arbour Hill Cemetery in Dublin, ahead of the annual James Connolly Commemoration, which is jointly organised by Labour and Siptu.

At the same event, Ethel Buckley, deputy general secretary of Siptu, said her union was lodging pay claims across the different sectors of the economy seeking pay rises that would match inflation.

“Workers should aspire to their disposable income being the same [NOW]as it was this time last year,” she said. “That is a reasonable aspiration I believe.”

Low wage problem

Meanwhile, in Cork on Saturday the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, said “we can’t chase inflation from month to month” and that the Government wanted to sit down with the social partners “to see how we as a country can collectively and strategically respond to these unique set of circumstances that are impacting on people’s take home pay, that are impacting on people’s disposable income”.

Ms Buckley said workers would interpret the comments as meaning they would have to wait before being compensated for price rises.

“We unapologetically expect that our members wages will keep up with inflation,” she said.

During her address at the event Ms Bacik said that amid all the chatter about hi-tech innovation and silicon docklands, the reality was that Ireland had a low wage problem.

“One in five of our workforce, many of them migrant workers like Connolly, are low paid workers, whose wages don’t allow for a decent or dignified life.”

She criticised politicians who sought to use the rise in prices to argue against measures aimed at tackling climate change.

“Sinn Féin have spent the last two months trying to conflate the energy crisis and the climate crisis, attacking measures designed to tackle the climate crisis.

“It certainly isn’t progressive politics and it is not politics that our party will support.”

The climate crisis “is the social justice issue of our generation” and those who sought to gain political advantage by blaming the Greens and progressives for the position we find ourselves in were engaged in the worst kind of cynical politics, she said.

“The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste are more than happy to use the Greens as a mudguard for trying to attempt what must be done,” she said.