Unions call for faster roll out of Living Wage in Ireland

A union official has called for faster implementation of the new living wage announced by the government on Tuesday.

Dr Laura Bambrick, head of social policy and employment affairs at the Irish Council of Trade Unions (ICTU), said she welcomed plans to replace the current minimum wage of €10.50 per hour by a new living wage, which will be phased in over four years from 2023.

However, there were fears that as prices go up the increase would be undone, she told Newstalk Breakfast.

“This is an extremely important and positive decision for hundreds of thousands of workers,” she added.

Unions were founded two centuries ago to abolish low wages, Living Wages would do that, Dr Bambrick said.

“This proposal is not a back-of-the-envelope job. It comes after extensive research into the best way to move from minimum wage to living wage. They looked at other countries. There is nothing original here.

Dr Bambrick pointed out that the Low Pay Commission had recommended that the living wage be introduced in “no more than five years” and that the government had opted for a four-year transition.

The plan was similar to programs already in place in other countries and was the result of extensive research. However, Germany had “thrown a spanner in the works” last week, she said, when it announced it would introduce a living wage increase within four months.

There had to be an option to “speed up” the process in times of crisis, she added.

Asked if the introduction of the living wage would cause costs to rise as employers passed on the increase, Dr Bambrick said less than 140,000 – or 7% of the workforce – would benefit from this program. The reality was that the introduction of the living wage meant that people who worked a full week would now be able to pay their bills.

The challenge for the government was to “find that sweet spot” where there was also a benefit for employers, she said.

Michael A. Bynum