Kenny defends salary to experts
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted he is worth his 3,500 euro a week salary as a new panel of experts began work to advise on changes to the 8.65 euro an hour minimum wage.
Mr Kenny was asked at the launch of the Low Pay Commission in Dublin whether his 185,000 euro a year earnings were value for money and said: "Very much so."
A nine-strong panel of experts, including trade unionists, business chiefs and economists, is to issue its first report by mid-July on incremental changes to the minimum wage.
Currently at 8.65 euro - a rate first introduced in 2007 - the commission will assess how increases or cuts would impact on workers and employers and it will go on to make recommendations once a year.
As he unveiled the new commission, the Taoiseach was pressed on the wage bill for the Department of the Taoiseach, his own salary and whether it was value for money.
"Salaries are down by 40% and in the case of the Taoiseach's we have cut everything to the bone," he said.
Mr Kenny's salary compares with £142,000 for British prime minister David Cameron, 400,000 dollars for US president Barack Obama and 179,000 euro for French president Francois Hollande and the 200,000 euro plus earned by German chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Government insisted that cuts or increases to the minimum wage will be agreed on the basis of evidence and after consulting directly with workers and business owners.
Jack O'Connor, president of Siptu, has called for an hourly rate of 11.45 euro but the suggestion has been dismissed by business bodies including Ibec and Small and Medium Enterprise group Isme which claim increases to the rate would cripple business and dent the improvements in job creation.
Maeve McElwee, Ibec head of industrial relations, said there is no justification for an increase.
"An unwarranted rise at a time when unemployment remains unacceptably high would undermine job creation and threaten the viability of business still struggling to survive," she said.
"The current national minimum wage remains high by international standards and the taxes applied to it are particularly low. The focus must be on job creation."
The annual minimum wage reviews will examine unemployment and employment rates generally, advise on the expected impact of a cut or increase on employment, the cost of living and national competitiveness and it will also look at changes in income distribution and exchange rates.
Addressing the work of the commission, the Taoiseach insisted the Government would not delay implementing its recommendations.
"Work should pay more than welfare, and no household with a person in full-time work should be poor. This is not always the case at the moment," he said.
The Taoiseach pointed to data from 2013 which showed 9% of families where the head of the household is at work are classed as consistently poor.
"This is morally unacceptable, and economically unwise," Mr Kenny said.
The commissoners, led by former banker Dr Donal de Buitleir, the director of PublicPolicy.ie, includes Patricia King, vice-president of Siptu and and incoming Congress general secretary and Gerry Light, assistant general secretary of Mandate from the trade union movement.
On the business front it will include Vincent Jennings, chief executive of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association, Tom Noonan, chief executive of The Maxol Group and former president of Ibec and Caroline McEnery, director of HR Suite.
Others on the panel are Edel McGinley, director of Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, Mary Mosse, economics lecturer at WIT Business School and Professor Donal O'Neill from the department of economics in NUI Maynooth.
The commission was launched along with Tanaiste and Labour Party leader Joan Burton and Jobs Minister Richard Bruton.
"The Low Pay Commission represents the next step in the Government prioritising work and fairness as the economic recovery takes hold. Having a job is the best protector against poverty, and fair wages and conditions are essential to that," Ms Burton said.
"My goal is to ensure a social, as well as an economic recovery, led by real growth in people's wages. With the commission, we push pay outside the realm of party politics and ensure that issues around low pay stay front and centre in public debate, and are never allowed to drift off the agenda."
The commission held its first meeting in St Andrew's Resource Centre in Dublin today.