Sunday 22 January 2017

Labour facing down Fine Gael efforts to 'steal their clothes' on wages

Published 07/12/2015 | 02:30

Simon Harris
Simon Harris

Labour is facing "a shameless attempt to steal their political clothes" by Fine Gael on the issue of wages for families.

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The main Coalition party is planning to make a pledge to young parents that they will earn at least €11.75 per hour if Fine Gael is returned to power.

Low-paid mothers and fathers earning the minimum wage of €9.15 could receive a top-up of around €2.60 per hour from the State to encourage them to stay off the dole.

Minister of State for Finance Simon Harris said the planned welfare top-up for workers on low pay would reward work over welfare.

"It will also avoid putting an unbearable cost of increased pay on business and thus contribute to growth in employment," Mr Harris said.

It is the latest in a series of Fine Gael policies unveiled in recent weeks that are seen as targeting Labour's core vote - including the pitch to families in low-paid jobs and the pledge of a free vote on abortion.

Labour tried to make light of claims it is being upstaged by its senior partner on yet another occasion.

A Labour source said it was happy to see Fine Gael adopting policies that are very similar to its own.

"These similarities show the impact we are actually having in Government. They are reflected in both economic and social policies," the Labour source insisted.

But Fianna Fáil welfare spokesman Willie O'Dea said the plan was "a very obvious ploy by Fine Gael to take votes away from Labour".

He said the plan replicated two existing schemes and was a direct effort to deflect from Labour proposals for "a living wage".

"This is quite simply a shameless ploy to steal Labour's political clothing," Mr O'Dea said.

Mr Harris rejected this, saying Fine Gael and Labour had worked well together on job creation and welfare: "I want us to continue working together in a renewed Coalition mandate for another five years," he said.

Mr Harris said the specific details of the new Working Family Payment would be fleshed out in Fine Gael's General Election manifesto.

He said that the current Family Income Supplement scheme, which is designed to top up the salaries of low-paid workers, was too rigid to incentivise many people to return to work.

While brushing aside allegations of "targeting" Labour votes, Mr Harris did say that he hoped it would expose Sinn Féin proposals for a "living wage" of €11.50 per hour.

He said that such a scheme would halt job creation and put employment at risk.

Irish Independent

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