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Restaurant Association of Ireland’s Distasteful Attack on Workers Wages

PRESS RELEASE: 12 April 2011

Restaurant and Catering Workers Forum demonstrate opposition at Restaurant Association of Ireland’s Gala Dinner

Members of The Restaurant and Catering Workers Forum, established by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland and SIPTU, will be demonstrating this evening at the Restaurant Association of Ireland’s 40th anniversary black tie gala dinner at the Gibson Hotel.   The Forum is responding to The Restaurant Association’s call for the abolishment of Joint Labour Committees and a reduction in the minimum wages for restaurant workers, at its annual conference in Dublin today.

According to Pat Ward of SIPTU, “The restaurant industry is driving an attack on minimum wage rates and basic protections for workers. This is not about saving jobs – many restaurants have actually seen their profits increase while lower-wage workers are struggling to survive.  The industry’s attack on wages for the poorest workers is shameful.  Now, more than ever, we must ensure protections remain in place for those who need them most.  We are calling on the Restaurant Association to drop its shameful and distasteful attack on the wages of the lowest paid workers.”

“Contrary to what the restaurant association claims, the latest Eurostat data shows that labour costs in the restaurant and hospitality sector in Ireland are below the EU-15 average,” says Helen Lowry of MRCI.  “The trend over the past three years suggests that labour costs will continue fall further behind the EU average.  Employers’ assertions that labour costs are somehow ‘uncompetitive’ or out of line with EU norms are false.”

The Restaurant and Catering Workers Forum is run by a committee of workers and was originally initiated by the Hotel Catering Arts Leisure and Entertainment sector of SIPTU and the Restaurant Workers Action Group of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland.

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Notes:

Restaurant and catering workers are the lowest paid of any sector.   Their average weekly pay is €351 (just half of the national average).  The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) has also reported that an overwhelming 79% of all catering establishments inspected in 2009 were found to be out of compliance with laws governing minimum rates of pay, payment of wages, and related employment protections.

According to a 2010 TASC report, A Square Deal, wage rates in the restaurant sector are competitive and one of the lowest in the EU-15.  The TASC report also states that abolishing JLC pay scales for general workers would result in insignificant reductions in the price of a meal that would not increase customer demand.    For example, the cost of a €60 meal for two would reduce by just 61 cents per customer.  The report states that it is doubtful that these minimal price reductions would increase customer demand and address the primary issue of commercial rent.