Sunday 21 January 2018

Jobs must be the priority for now, not wage rises

People queue for Social Welfare
People queue for Social Welfare

ALL it takes is a couple of 'good news' stories and with the blink of an eye, trade union leaders are lining up to demand pay increases for public sector workers. Of course, Irish workers have paid a heavy price during the years of austerity. It is not necessary to wallow in the misery of pay cuts, tax hikes and a raft of new domestic charges. Most of us feel the pain in our daily lives.

But – and it is a big but – do we want to dampen the chances of a full recovery by forming a disorderly queue to demand pay increases of up to 6pc, citing, as one union has, "the first green shoots of recovery after five years of recession"?

According to another union leader, David Begg, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions: "At a domestic level, Ireland's most pressing need is for a wage rise – to infuse money and demand into the economy." While Mr Begg must represent his members as best he can, it would seem to others that the most pressing need is not for extra wages but for extra jobs. It would be short-term thinking in the extreme to harvest the so-called 'green shoots' for the benefit of those already in work, while, in the process, sacrificing the long-term greater good of increased employment.

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