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Thursday 28 August 2014

One in five workers earns less than basic standard of living wage

Anne-Marie Walsh

Published 07/07/2014 | 02:30

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Jimmy Kelly, general secretary of the Unite trade union
Jimmy Kelly, general secretary of the Unite trade union

MORE than 300,000 workers earn less than a so-called 'living wage' needed to provide an adequate standard of living, a unions claims.

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Almost one in five workers, employed mainly in retail, hotels, administration and the construction industry, are earning less than €11.45 an hour.

The figure for the 'living wage', was calculated by a group of charities, unions and research bodies.

The 'living wage' is the minimum income necessary to maintain a basic standard of living.

The €11.45-an-hour 'living wage' figure is over 30pc higher than the legal minimum wage of €8.65 an hour, which has not risen since 2007.

The introduction of a living wage is a key policy platform for the new Tanaiste and Labour Party leader, Joan Burton, who has called for an increase in the minimum wage to create a living wage for the working poor.

She argues that introducing such a wage on a phased and voluntary basis, as has been rolled out in London, would reduce welfare spend and increase tax revenue.

Threat

However, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, whose portfolio may be under threat from Labour in this week's cabinet reshuffle, has resisted her call for any immediate adjustment to the minimum wage rate.

The 'living wage' figure was unveiled last week following research by the Living Wage Technical Group on the expenditure necessary for essential living standards.

Using Central Statistics Office data, the UNITE trade union said it estimated that nearly one in five workers earn below the hourly 'living wage'. The union said the numbers of working poor were higher as the figure does not include staff on over €11.45 an hour who do not get enough hours to earn a weekly living wage of €446.

The €11.45 figure was calculated based on a detailed appraisal of the cost of 2,000 expenses typically faced by households including rent, food, energy, transport, clothing and services. The Living Wage research found that the after-tax cost of living under its criteria varied from €410 a week in Dublin to €348 in other cities.

UNITE warned that "poverty pay" was delaying economic recovery.

"Ireland is in the throes of a low-pay epidemic," said Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly (left).

The Living Wage Technical Group is made up of the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice, the Nevin Economic Research Institute, TASC, Social Justice Ireland, SIPTU and UNITE.

Irish Independent

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