February 3rd: Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly today told members of the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation that employees’ compensation needs to be raised to European levels if Irish workers are to enjoy the same levels of living standards, public service provision and social protection enjoyed by their European counterparts. Mr Kelly, who was addressing the Committee during a hearing on Low Pay and the Living Wage, also reiterated Unite’s call for a €1 increase in the National Minimum Wage as part of a multi-pronged strategy to ensure that the Living Wage becomes a new ‘threshold of decency’ for Irish workers. Unite’s Submission to the Committee is available for download here.
“When addressing issues of low pay we need to look not just at workers’ weekly pay packets, but also at what they can expect in terms of public services and social protection supports. On each of these measures, Irish workers lose out.
“Ireland is a low-wage economy. When purchasing power is considered, Irish wages fall 14 percent below the EU-15 level. When it comes to the main low-paid sectors, Irish wages fall even further behind. Hospitality wages fall more than 20 percent below the EU-15 level.
“At the same time, Irish Employers’ PRSI levels are amongst the lowest in the EU, which means that Irish workers are denied the same level of public services and social protection supports taken for granted by other workers in Europe. Employers’ PRSI in Ireland is one of the lowest in the EU. Increasing it to just the EU average would raise an additional €8 billion to invest in the services and supports on which workers depend.
“Increasing the wages of low-paid workers, and increasing Employers’ PRSI to fund a ‘social wage’, would not only benefit the workers affected: it would also release much needed cash into the economy to help drive domestic demand – thus securing the jobs of other workers”, Mr Kelly pointed out.