Press Centre

Ireland’s Day of Shame

Press Release: 01 February 2011

Unions and Community Sector Organisations Mark Minimum Wage Cut with Dáil Ceremony

A coalition of trade unions and community sector organisations held a ceremony outside the gates of Dáil Éireann to publicly mark the cutting of the National Minimum Wage which came into effect today, 1 February 2011 – as Ireland’s Day of Shame.  The organisations have also joined forces to campaign for a reversal of the €1/hour cut to the Minimum Wage, and to protect Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) which have recently come under review* (see Note for Editors).

The coalition includes SIPTU, MANDATE, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, The Poor Can’t Pay Campaign, The Community Platform, UNITE and The National Women’s Council of Ireland.

According to John Douglas, MANDATE General Secretary, low paid workers did not cause this economic crisis, but the 30th Dáil made them pay for it.  “By cutting the Minimum Wage and initiating a review of Employment Regulation Orders, the Fianna Fáil-Green Government has brought shame to the Dáil,” says Mr. Douglas.

“The cut of the Minimum Wage today from €8.65 to €7.65 will slash an additional €40 a week from the household budgets of tens of thousands of working families across Ireland – families that are already struggling to make ends meet, even more so with the additional taxes being taken from their weekly pay cheques,” says Anne Costello, spokeswoman for the Community Platform.

According to Siobhán O’Donoghue, Director of MRCI, Ireland is the first country on record to cut its Minimum Wage.  “Ireland’s Minimum Wage has been consistently misrepresented as disproportionately high when this is not the case.  Other EU countries such as France, Belgium, and the Netherlands have similar minimum wages, yet their cost of living is considerably lower.  In fact, other EU countries are continuing to increase minimum wages in the recession.”

“Most of those earning the minimum wage are women,” says Susan McKay, CEO of the National Women’s Council of Ireland. “It’s already extremely difficult to make ends meet on this level of pay. This cut and the proposed review will increase poverty and risk widening the gender pay gap. It will not generate new jobs, nor will it reduce the government deficit. It is just wrong at every level.’

“This cut to the National Minimum Wage will increase the numbers of ‘working poor’ and make it harder for people to escape poverty through securing decent work. On the contrary it will push more families onto social welfare. This is the direct opposite of what we need to be doing to rebuild our economy and society,” said Mike Allen, Spokesperson for The Poor Can’t Pay. “Cutting €40 a week from the pay packet of low paid workers will inevitably lead to ill-informed demands for similar cuts in welfare payments and a return to poverty levels not seen since the 1950s.”

“Today we will take the first step to reclaiming our sovereignty and building a better Ireland, in the name of the 350,000 low paid workers in the engine room of our economy who depend on the minimum wage and EROs to support their families,” says Ethel Buckley, Campaign Co-ordinator, SIPTU.  “We will also be asking candidates in the general election to make a pledge that if elected they will defend the lowest paid workers by committing to reverse the cut to the minimum wage and to protect Employment Regulation Orders.  We will be asking candidates to put hard working families first – or they’ll put them last!”

Ends.

 

*Note for Editors: 

Review of Employment Regulation Orders

The government, as part of the National Recovery Plan announced in November 2010, decided to undertake a review of Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) which set minimum rates of pay and conditions for thousands of workers in Ireland in specific sectors of employment.  Currently, there are 18 EROs in existence covering up to 300,000 workers.   Some sectors in which workers are covered by EROs include agriculture, contract cleaning, catering, hotels, and retail grocery and allied trades.   EROs are made by the Labour Court and are based on agreements of Joint Labour Committees (JLCs).  JLCs are independent bodies made up of equal numbers of employer and worker representatives appointed by the Labour Court with a chairperson appointed by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation.   JLCs meet regularly to review and agree the EROs.

For more information on EROs and JLCs see: www.labourcourt.ie