Labour’s vision is not just for full employment, but for fair employment – Nash

09 February 2016

Speaking at the launch of ‘Launching a Skills Revolution’ – Labour’s plan for a living wage and investing in skills

Jobs are at the heart of this election campaign. Decent well paid jobs lift families out of poverty and provide economic security. They are the means by which all our people can share in the dividends of a recovering economy.

A strong economy creates jobs. All Labour’s policies are focussed on growing and strengthening the economy, to sustain the jobs we need.

Five years ago jobs were disappearing at a rate of 1,000 per week. We had a collapsed apprenticeship system and a recruitment embargo in both the public and private sectors.

Four years on, we are creating 1,100 jobs a week and there are now almost 2 million people at work. We believe we can by 2018 increase that figure by at least a further 150,000 – a job for everyone who wants one.

The key to full employment is to invest in people. This means investing in those currently at work and in the workers of the future.

Labour in Government radically reformed further education and training through the establishment of SOLAS and the Education and Training Boards. We set up the Apprenticeship Council to expand apprenticeships into new sectors of the economy and create 21st century apprenticeships. We also pioneered the Skills to Work initiative, which gave jobseekers access to training, work experience and job opportunities.

Labour’s vision is not just for full employment but for fair employment. A good job deserves a decent wage, one that provides for a decent standard of living, without having to depend on State supports.

Labour in Government has already delivered. We reversed Fianna Fáil’s €1 cut in the minimum wage. We appointed a new independent Low Pay Commission to advise on the National Minimum Wage and we implemented its first recommendation. A minimum wage worker now earns €3,000 per year more than in 2011.

In the next Government, we will do more. We will increase the minimum wage until it is pegged at 60% of median earnings – around €11.30 per hour in today’s terms.

We have also embraced the Living Wage initiative. I am delighted to confirm that just today another employer, Cornmarket Group Financial Services based in Christchurch Square, have confirmed that they are signing up to become a living wage employer. Cornmarket employs 275 staff here and their commitment means that 25 of these employees will receive wage increases form this March.

As Cornmarket put it in their letter to me: “Every worker should be paid sufficiently to ensure that they can provide for the basic needs of themselves and their family in terms of housing, food, healthcare, etc., and to enable them to maintain a minimum standard of living”.

Labour will ensure that the Government itself and all State bodies become living wage employers. Under the Lansdowne Road Agreement we are unwinding the emergency public sector pay cuts, focussing on the lowest-paid public servants first. We will make the living wage a pay floor across the public sector.

Labour is the party of workers’ rights. As well as tackling low pay, we are committed to fairness and decency in the workplace and to tackling the causes of insecurity at work.

Elsewhere in Europe governments responded to the economic crisis by curtailing workers’ rights. Labour and this Government did the opposite. We broke new ground with collective bargaining legislation, which strengthens workers’ legal rights to negotiate with employers. We boosted protection for workers by reinstating Registered Employment Agreements and we introduced new Sectoral Employment Orders on a constitutionally sound basis.

Already, 55,000 low paid security and contract cleaning staff have received a pay rise, after binding wage agreements were agreed under the legislation passed by this government.

Fairness and decency means special protection for those in precarious employment. We have made clear that we in Labour have no interest in ‘jobs at any price’, in the spread of casual labour at the lowest wages.

And so we will not permit abusive terms and conditions of employment – low pay, insecure hours or enforced bogus self-employment – to be imposed on the vulnerable, the low paid and those with little social protection.

We will legislate for common and comprehensive definitions of employment and self-employment, which will apply for tax, social welfare and employment protection purposes, and we will crack down on bogus self-employment.

We will address abuses of zero hour and low hour contracts, we will legislate to prohibit the casualisation of workers and we will safeguard the rights of workers whose jobs are swallowed up in insolvencies.

We will do this because we believe that decent workplaces aren’t just good for employees: they are good for business, for our economy and for society as a whole.



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