How can a ‘social democratic’ party continue to oppose increase in minimum wage?

28 July 2016

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast today, Social Democrat joint leader Stephen Donnelly made it clear that his party remains as opposed as ever, to any measure that would bring the National Minimum wage in line with a Living Wage.

Stephen argued that what we should do instead is reduce costs to businesses – costs such as local authority rates. Stephen suggested that if we did that, then surely to goodness, businesses would pass on the savings to their workers in the form of generous wage increases. I’m sure Stephen has the best of intentions, but God bless his naivety if he thinks that this is the way business operates.

We were all surprised to see in the Soc Dem election manifesto, a commitment NOT to increase the national minimum wage, but I would have thought that in the meantime, they would have softened their position on this.

By contrast, it is Labour’s view that the minimum wage should be increased steadily to living wage level – 60% of median earnings.

Labour has a proud track record of bringing about real and progressive change in this area. In Government, our priority was to make work pay, and we did this by reversing Fianna Fáil’s cut to the Minimum Wage and delivering a further increase in 2016.

In addition we reinstated Joint Labour Committees, registered employment agreements and introduced Sectoral Employment Orders, crucial mechanisms which help workers secure better pay and conditions and which will benefit more than 200,000 people.

The opposition by his party to any increase in the minimum wage, and the stubborn adherence by Stephen Donnelly to the misplaced ideology behind this position, would be more at home in a party that espouses small government, soft-touch regulation and laissez faire economics, rather than in one that describes itself as “social democratic”. To be honest, I find it very odd.

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