Government have not just postponed a Minimum Wage increase – they have cancelled it

15 October 2019

Labour Party Spokesman on Social Protection Willie Penrose TD said he was outraged by the double-dealing and duplicity of Minister Regina Doherty on the National Minimum Wage. “The Minister either does not understand the impact of her decision,” Deputy Penrose said, “which would be grossly negligent. Or else she fully understands what she has done and she is bamboozling the rest of us. This is no way to mistreat the most marginalised section of the workforce.”

Deputy Penrose was speaking in Dáil Éireann in Private Members’ Time on the Sinn Féin motion on the Living Wage, which Labour supported.

“Under the Minimum Wage legislation, the Low Pay Commission must make an annual report to the Minister and, within 3 months of the date of receipt, the Minister must either by order declare a new minimum wage in the terms recommended by the Commission or in other terms, or she may decline to make an order.

“If the Minister declines to make an order, then she must publish a statement of her reasons for so doing.

“It seems that, on the 9th October, the Minister made a short ‘Statement of Reasons for declining to make an order declaring a national minimum hourly rate of pay’. According to the Statement of Reasons, ‘the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection has declined to make an order declaring the national minimum hourly rate of pay until the situation with respect to Brexit becomes clearer.’

“The Government amendment to this evening’s motion says something different. It says that ‘the Government has accepted the recommendations of the Commission in their entirety; however, given that the terms of Brexit are not yet finalised, the Government has decided that a decision on the date of implementation will be made when the outcome of the Brexit negotiations becomes clearer.’

“The reality is that Regina Doherty has not just postponed a decision on the date of implementation. She has invoked her statutory power to decline to make any order.

“To be absolutely clear on this, the legislation gives the Minister a three month window to respond. It does not permit her to postpone a decision beyond that three month period. And so a failure to decide within three months means no decision can be made for another year.

“The statutory function of the Minister in relation to this report is now spent. She had a once-off statutory response to make and she has made it. She has responded to the Low Pay Commission report and has declined to make an order, as the Act permits her to do.

“The result is that not only will the low-paid not get the much-needed pay increase recommended by the Low Pay Commission – or even the smaller increase which the employers had recommended – but by failing to make any decision the Minister has lost the power to make any order under the Act for the next year.

“Regina Doherty must come forward and admit what she has done – and try to justify what she has actually done rather than what she pretends to have done. She has not just postponed an increase in the minimum wage, she has cancelled it. There is no room for another order until the Commission makes its next annual report”, Deputy Penrose concluded.

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