Union leaders call for immediate aid to organisations providing food assistance, followed by Emergency Relief Budget in 2014
December 15th: Trade unions Mandate and Unite today issued Hungry for Action, a county-by-county breakdown of food poverty in Ireland.
Nationally, one-in-ten people suffer food poverty, but the figure rises to over one-in-nine in Donegal, the county with the lowest income levels.
In the document, the two unions demand that the Government provide immediate aid to organisations providing food assistance to enable them to cope with the pre-Christmas demand on their services, followed by an ‘Emergency Relief Budget’ in the New Year to start reversing cuts to low-income groups which have seen food poverty increase dramatically since the start of the economic crisis.
The Minimum Wage has not been increased since 2007, and its value has been eroded by inflation since then. Unite and Mandate are therefore calling on the Government to increase the Minimum Wage in order to help alleviate in-work poverty.
Commenting, Mandate General Secretary and Congress President John Douglas said:
“Food poverty means that someone missed a meal in the last fortnight because of a lack of money. It may mean they cannot afford a meal with meat or the vegetarian equivalent every second day or afford a roast or vegetarian equivalent once a week. Those suffering food poverty may be lone parent families; they may be the newly unemployed; they may be pensioners – and they may be people in work, struggling to survive on low wages. In the short term, we need to ensure that the organisations working to alleviate food poverty have sufficient funds – but in the medium term we need to grow the incomes of low earners and those dependent on Social Protection”
Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly said:
“Food poverty in Ireland today is part of a policy-made disaster – austerity, and the collapse in incomes it has brought in its wake. The figures released by Unite and Mandate show that food poverty is a reality in every county in Ireland. Organisations providing food assistance are stretched to their limits, which is why we are calling on the Government to immediately make €10 million available to such organisations. But the cause of food poverty will only be addressed by starting to increase the incomes of the most deprived in our society, which is why we are also calling for an increase in basic Social Protection rates, and an increase in the Minimum Wage to help address the growing problem of in-work poverty”.