Unions urged to defend worker rights


UNITED LEFT ALLIANCE:THE REDUCTION in the minimum wage marks the start of an “employers’ offensive” on workers’ rights and people on social welfare, the United Left Alliance has claimed.

The alliance, which is running 19 candidates in the general election, yesterday challenged trade unions to “rise to the challenge” of defending workers’ rights and conditions.

Councillor Richard Boyd Barrett of People Before Profit, who is standing for the alliance in Dún Laoghaire, criticised the “ridiculous spectacle” of highly-paid people lecturing the lowest paid on accepting further pay cuts.

Mr Boyd Barrett claimed the reduction of the minimum wage on February 1st, combined with social welfare cuts and the incorporation of the low paid into the tax net, was part of a wider agenda to force down wages.

Another alliance candidate, Socialist Party MEP Joe Higgins, said the old minimum rate of €8.65 was too low and its reduction to €7.65, if enforced by employers, would tip thousands of families into poverty.

He claimed employers up and down the country were going to seek the written “consent” of their employees to amend contracts and reduce wages.

“A campaign must be waged by the unions, particularly Mandate and Siptu, to urge workers not to give this consent to their employers but to organise resistance to this attack,” Mr Higgins said.

Another Socialist Party member standing for the alliance, councillor Clare Daly, predicted that employers would now attack regulations governing conditions for 300,000 private sector workers.

Rates for building workers had been cut by 7.5 per cent and the restaurant sector was calling for pay reductions and an end to Sunday and overtime premiums, she pointed out.

“All these attacks taken together with the various social welfare reductions and tax hikes that have been loaded on working people and the unemployed, will reinforce the deflationary spiral the indigenous economy has been locked in.”