Bruton pressing ahead with wage rates overhaul
Published 04/06/2011 | 05:00
Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton has taken on his Labour Party coalition partners and strongly defended his controversial plans to overhaul the pay rates of 250,000 workers.
He will plough ahead with proposals to scrap extra Sunday payments and some wage rates across a host of industries.
Last night, in a speech that will be seen as a broadside against Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, he insisted his plans to reform legally binding wage deals would take people off the dole.
Ms Burton last week voiced concern that the proposals might do the opposite, and cause low-paid workers to "lean on" the Live Register.
Mr Bruton's stout defence of his plans comes as he prepares to present his proposals on wage deals that cover major sectors like hotels and retail to cabinet.
Mr Bruton said the Government needed to "think radically" to have any impact on the staggering unemployment figures, as many businesses were "hanging on by their fingernails".
He said the retail, hotel and catering sectors, which are regulated by the deals, suffered a 20pc drop in employment in the last three years, and his plans would help reverse this.
"If we can find a way of increasing activity in these labour-intensive sectors, there is a large group of people who we can immediately bring back into employment," he said.
He said the fact that there were 443,400 people on the Live Register was "reminding us that there is no time to waste".
Mr Bruton said his proposals would have the greatest impact on new recruits, as existing workers' pay and conditions were protected by contracts.
But he admitted that the terms enjoyed by existing workers might be affected over time.
His speech is likely to anger unions, who last week warned the minister that his plans would cost jobs.
Mr Bruton drew up his proposals on the wage deals following an independent review .
His plans go beyond the recommendations of the review by state mediator Kevin Duffy and academic Frank Walsh, which did not advocate abolishing pay rates or scrapping Sunday premiums.
Mr Burton emphasised that, like the review, he did not advocate abolishing basic rates, but rates that applied to skilled and experienced workers "over and above" these.
He also pointed out that although extra pay for Sundays would be scrapped from the deals, workers could be compensated under existing legislation.
However, the legislation does not necessarily mean staff will get payments, as it also allows for compensation by time off in lieu.
The Government is due to decide by the end of the month on a plan of action on the wage deals -- which is a condition of the IMF/EU bailout.