Wednesday 24 January 2018

It is immoral for working families to be living in poverty, Taoiseach says

Patricia King
Patricia King
Emma Jane Hade

Emma Jane Hade

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said it was "morally unacceptable" for working families to be living in poverty.

The Fine Gael leader insisted "work should pay more than welfare" and that no family, where the head of the household is in full-time employment, should be classified as "consistently poor".

He was speaking yesterday at the launch of the Low Pay Commission, which will spend the next five months discussing proposals for changes to the minimum wage of €8.65 per hour. The nine-person independent commission is due to return its recommendations to the Government by July 15. The group is chaired by Dr Donal de Buitléir.

During the Taoiseach's address to the commission, he said it was "economically unwise" that 9pc of working families were classified by the Government as "consistently poor", according to data from 2013.

Patricia King, the incoming secretary-general of Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) is also a part of the commission. Ms King, who is currently vice-president of Siptu, said the newly established commission was "part of a big effort" of dealing with the country's "low pay problem".

"The national minimum wage is a very basic payment, so therefore in the initial stages of the work of the commission looking at the national minimum wage, from our perspective, it is an absolute no-brainer that the minimum wage has to be increased," she said.

Earlier this week, business lobby group Ibec said it could not justify a pay increase and argued that it would have a negative impact on employment levels.

However, Ms King said that "there is no doubt in (her) mind that there has to be a substantial improvement". Siptu, the largest union in the country, recently called for the living wage to be increased to €11.45.

The Taoiseach said that if and when any changes will be made to the minimum wage rate, it would be "adjusted incrementally, over time".

"It will also take into account changes in earnings, productivity, overall competitiveness and the likely impact any adjustment will have on employment and unemployment levels," the coalition leader added.

Mr Kenny also renewed his promise that a further 80,000 workers would be exempt from the Universal Social Charge (USC) by the end of the year.

Business and Employment Minister Ged Nash said that he would like to take the politics "out of setting the rate of the national minimum wage". Minister Nash said that he hoped the rate would be set each year, allowing businesses "certainty over their costs".

"And, to make sure as well that the various Government departments responsible for this area can plan accordingly," he added.

John Drennan's Guide to Politics - Spring 2015

The next election will change your life. In a special supplement with the Sunday Independent, John Drennan presents his guide to Irish politics.

Irish Independent

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