Collective bargaining must be centrepiece of response to in-work poverty

unite-white-out-of-redResponding to SJI figures, Unite also highlights need to tackle precariousness, achieve Living Wage

March 20th: Responding to figures published by Social Justice Ireland showing that the number of working poor in Ireland has continued to rise despite the economic recovery, Unite Regional Secretary Jackie Pollock said today that proper collective bargaining provision must form the centrepiece of a policy response to in-work poverty, which should also include measures to tackle precariousness and achieve the Living Wage.

“The fact that over 100,000 people in work were living below the poverty line in 2016 – while up to a quarter earned less than the Living Wage – is an indictment of the policies pursued by successive governments.  These are Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s ‘early risers’: women and young workers, those on precarious contracts, and those working in sectors such as security, retail and hospitality.

“Collective bargaining is one of the most effective ways to raise wages, yet Ireland is unique within the EU in not requiring employers to respect their employee’s decision to bargain collectively. While the 2015 Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act was a step forward, it merely provided mechanisms for certain groups of workers whose employers refuse to negotiate collectively with a body of the workers’ choice.  We still need fit-for-purpose collective bargaining legislation focussed on the rights of workers – rather than the rights of employers.

“Although collective bargaining rights should form the centrepiece of a policy response to poverty pay, we also need to tackle high levels of precarious working and develop strategies to achieve the Living Wage, currently calculated as €11.70 per hour.

“A recent ICTU study found that 8% of the workforce, or nearly 160,000 workers, saw significant variations in their hours of work, while there has also been a massive 34%  rise in ‘part-time, self -employed without employees’ workers since 2008, indicating bogus or false self-employment.  Robust measures are needed to address precariousness, and in this regard the provisions in the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill currently passing through the Oireachtas need to be significantly strengthened to outlaw zero hours and ‘if and when’ contracts, while also ensuring effective redress for workers whose employers fail to meet their obligations and providing robust remedies to prevent workers being victimised.

“The third pillar of an anti-poverty-pay strategy is the Living Wage – and making the Living Wage a reality for more low-paid workers will require not only raising wage floors, but also reducing some of the costs – such as rents, which make up over 40% of the Living Wage in Dublin, and public transport – which go to make up the Living Wage”, Jackie Pollock concluded.

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