Migrant workers warn they can't afford cut in pay
Published 10/03/2011 | 05:00
THEY offered Enda Kenny breakfast, but warned they would not stomach a cut in their pay.
Chefs Enamur Chowdhury and Krishan Deep held out platters of croissants to the incoming Taoiseach when he arrived at Leinster House yesterday.
Mr Kenny told them "every army marches on its belly" when they held out the trays.
But they warned him there would be a bitter aftertaste for thousands of other restaurant and catering workers if he downgrades their wages, sick leave and overtime.
The pair, who work as chefs in Dublin, confronted the newly elected politicians on their way to the Dail and urged them to protect the minimum wages and conditions of 300,000 workers.
Their conditions are laid down in Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreements that are legally binding, but under review as part of the bailout deal with the IMF and EU.
Mr Chowdhury, a father of one, said he was on a minimum rate of roughly €9.30-an-hour, but fears it will be abolished.
Fellow chef Mr Deep said he was struggling to support his wife in Dublin, and mother, sister and nephew at home in India.
"I want to tell them 'Do not cut our minimum wages, we cook everything for you but when we go home if we can't cook for our families and children it will be very hard for us'," Mr Chowdhury said.
"Most migrant workers are not even getting minimum wages. If the minimum rates go down, they will get even less."
Fine Gael and Labour are in favour of reforming the minimum rates, which are agreed by unions and employers and then rubberstamped by the Labour Court.
According to their Programme for Government, both parties say they will reform the committees of unions and employees that agree the rates by ensuring that independent chairpeople are appointed to these committees.
Employer groups have complained that these chairpeople normally back unions.
Both parties have also pledged to reverse the last month's €1-an-hour cut in the national minimum wage.