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Business group criticises the timing of living wage debate

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Laura Bambrick, head of social policy and employment affairs at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Laura Bambrick, head of social policy and employment affairs at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Laura Bambrick, head of social policy and employment affairs at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions

THE timing of the Government’s decision in authorising the Low Pay Commission to examine a living wage “is completely off”, the Small Firms Association (SFA) lobby group says.

The living wage in Ireland is estimated by some to be €12.30 per hour, while the national minimum wage is currently considerably lower at €10.20 per hour.

A living wage is defined as the minimum income necessary for a single adult worker in full-time employment, with no dependents, to meet his or her basic needs and to afford a minimum acceptable standard of living.

The Commission will consider the policy, social and economic implications of a move to a living wage and the process by which Ireland could make progress on the issue.

The move was criticised by some business groups with director of the SFA Sven Spollen-Behrens who said that “there is no need to start the debate right now, the timing is completely off.”

“Small businesses are dealing with huge amount of anxiety, they need to know what the pathway to reopening [the economy] will be.”

In addition to an increase to the minimum wage made earlier this year, small firms are facing other additional expenses of doing business, including increased family leave and Brexit costs.

The minimum wage rose by 10 cent this year. Mr Spollen-Behrens said that nobody in Government is really taking account of what the increased costs mean for small businesses.

“It is not good news for employers at the moment. Government needs to focus on what the issues are right now and not confuse small business owners as to where their [government] priorities are,” he added.

However, Laura Bambrick, head of social policy and employment affairs at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), said the current minimum wage is not enough to protect employees from the risk of poverty.

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For a lot of people there will “never be a good time” to have a conversation regarding minimum living wages, Ms Bambrick said.

The Commission has already done some work in examining a living minimum wage here.

The terms of reference to allow the Commission formally to begin its research and advise Government have now been agreed.

“One of the legacies of the pandemic must be a more inclusive society that rewards work and enterprise better,” Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar said. “That means better terms and conditions for lower paid workers. Moving to a living wage is an important part of this.”

He said the Government must take into account that many businesses are closed and are now loss-making.

Any move towards a minimum living wage must be done in a way “that does not cost jobs or cause people’s working hours to be reduced”, MrVaradkar added.

The Commission’s report is expected to be completed in the second half of this year and it will be sent to the Tánaiste.


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