TASC report shows need to tackle low pay and give a right to collective bargaining

19 February 2019

Welcoming the TASC report ‘The State We Are In: Inequality in Ireland today’, Labour spokesperson on Employment Affairs and Social Protection Ged Nash has called for a formal link between the national minimum wage and two thirds of median income, and a right to collective bargaining.

Senator Nash said:

“This significant report should serve as a wake-up call for government. It should be the case that a job represents the best way out of poverty but for all too many citizens, this is not true.

“There is a sharp divide between the best paid in our society, and those in working and lower middle class households. Taxes and social transfers can only do so much, and we have to work to address the imbalance in market incomes.

“And when policy makers congratulate themselves on reaching a form of ‘full-employment’, they rarely stop to think about the quality of that employment.

“Neither do they appear to be overly concerned at the uncomfortable reality that, according to the Department’s own figures, there are around 250,000 Irish households where no adult is working.

“This report makes it clear that we cannot hope to address structural inequality and deprivation in Ireland if we do not take the decent work agenda and the challenge of low pay more seriously.

“The most successful societies and economies are those with the strongest and most effective systems of collective bargaining.

“Sectoral bargaining systems set up by Labour such as the Sectoral Employment Order laws and the Joint Labour Committee system must be used more to allow working people to have a greater share of the pie.

“There also needs to be a renewed focus on ensuring that more working age adults participate in the labour force and are assisted into full-time work.

“We cannot continue to leave tens of thousands of citizen behind and at the same time clap ourselves on the back because we are reaching ‘full employment.’

“For a full-time worker, work must pay. That is why I have advocated that the Low Pay Commission should incrementally increase the National Minimum Wage to allow it to reach two-thirds of median income – the formula first used then when the minimum wage was first introduced.

“We have entire industries in Ireland addicted to low pay – retail and hospitality in particular. Perversely, the State continues to routinely spend hundreds of millions each year in subsidising this phenomenon through in work income supports.

“This is an important report and should provide food for thought for government.”

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