Tuesday 17 September 2019

Union leader accuses hotel and retail bosses of continuously opposing minimum wage hikes

Patricia King, of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions
Patricia King, of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Anne-Marie Walsh

The leader of the trade union movement has accused bosses in the hotel, restaurant and retail sector of continuously opposing hikes in the €9.80 an hour minimum wage.

General secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Patricia King, said the policy of employers in these industries is to work people as hard as they can for as little as they can.

Ms King is a member of the Low Pay Commission, which is due to decide if another hike in the statutory rate of pay is justified this July.

It remains to be seen if the government will achieve its target to increase the minimum wage to €10.50 an hour as pledged in its Programme for Government.

The union chief said certain sectors, including accommodation and food and retail “to name but a few”, “continuously argue for no change or increase to the minimum wage”.

“There isn’t such a thing as a low pay economy because their policy is to work people as hard as you can for as long as you can for as little as you can,” she told a Unite conference in Malahide this morning.

“They’ve had that policy for decades, and unfortunately they continue to have it.”

She said her trade union umbrella body is drafting a policy paper for consideration by affiliate unions on the “transformative effect” that collective bargaining would have in the workplace.

Ms King also said there are serious challenges posed by “this chaotic Brexit”.

“We appreciate that for the UK in general and for England and Wales in particular this has been an incredibly divisive issue. Irrespective of how people across the UK voted, they clearly didn’t vote to become poorer or for an uncertain future for themselves and their families.”

She said the union movement has grave concerns about the negative impact of a hard Brexit on trade and jobs and the Good Friday Agreement.

Ms King said that the existential threat posed by climate change is “on a scale that we have never faced before, at a national or a global level”.

“It requires a clear, concerted, coherent and strategic response,” she said.

“It is not optional. There are no jobs on a dead planet.”

She said a primary priority must be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the  coming decades and hasten an energy transition beyond fossil fuels. 

The union leader said this will pose particular challenges for workers in the energy sector, including Bord na Móna and sections of the ESB.

She said there must be a  commitment to state and European aid and the immediate establishment of a national Just Transition Forum.

Ms King said this would  be tasked with developing measures to ensure that neither the Bord na Mona workforce nor the local communities in the Midlands are left behind.

In relation to housing, she said the emergency will worsen unless the state begins to build public housing on a sufficient scale.

The chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland Adrian Cummins described her remarks as outrageous.

Mr Cummins claimed Ictu has a vendetta against employers and noted that 55,000 jobs were created in the hospitality industry since the crash.

Online Editors

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