Labour attacks Fine Gael over low-paid worker subsidy plan
Published 08/12/2015 | 02:30
Across a number of Dublin constituencies right now there are posters up with smiling faces of Labour Party candidates encouraging people to attend public meetings on the 'Living Wage'.
It's a major part of their election manifesto and one which appeals directly to their traditional voters at a time when the party is struggling to convince the electorate of their value in government.
But the smile would have been wiped off the faces of TDs like Joanna Tuffy and Kevin Humphreys, who are among those hosting the talks, on Sunday morning when they read about Fine Gael's "radical alternative".
Enda Kenny wants to give a top-up payment to working parents that will ensure they earn at least €11.75 an hour regardless of what rate the person has agreed with their employer.
For a start this is 25 cents an hour higher than the present Living Wage pitched by Labour and small business won't have to deal with impact because higher paid workers will essentially be subsidising the low paid through taxation.
The Fine Gael plan is reasonably cheap from a government point of view. A parent working a 40-hour week would receive an additional €104 - or close to €5,000 a year.
So far, so good. Except as Jobs Minister Ged Nash points out today it is the big fast-food chains and the department stores that will benefit most.
Why would they feel any pressure to spread the profits of a recovering retail sector if the Government will make them look good for free?
In an unexpected election twist, Labour are trying desperately to differentiate themselves from their popular big sister of the past five years, while at the same time Fine Gael are just shy of pinning a red rose to their blue shirts.
Mr Kenny has already followed Joan Burton down the path towards a referendum on the Eighth Amendment but now it seems his move on the low paid it is a step too far.
The Labour Party fightback is on - but Fine Gael's plan promises immediate money and that's hard to trump.