Unite proposes measures to ensure Living Wage becomes new Minimum Wage

Unite today (Wednesday 30 September) participated in the Living Wage Forum convened by Jobs Minister Gerald Nash TD. The forum follows last year’s establishment of the Living Wage Technical Group, comprising civil society organisations and unions including Unite. In July, the Technical Group calculated the 2015 Living Wage as €11.50 per hour. Unite was represented at today’s event by Regional Coordinating Officer Richie Browne and Research Officer Michael Taft.

Commenting, Regional Coordinating Officer Richie Browne said:

“Research shows that more than one in every four workers currently earns below the ‘decency benchmark’ calculated by the Living Wage Technical Group as €11.50 per hour. The challenge facing us is to devise a set of policies which, over the medium term, will transform the Minimum Wage into the Living Wage. The aim should be to ensure that no worker earns below the Living Wage, which has been calculated as the minimum necessary to provide an adequate standard of living.

He added: “A Living Wage economy would not only benefit the workers and families directly involved – it would also have knock-on benefits for communities and the wider economy. It would provide the platform for a sustainable, wage-led recovery”, Mr Browne said.

Speaking during the Forum, the union’s researcher Michael Taft said that we need to develop a roadmap towards a Living Wage economy.

Commenting afterwards, Mr Taft identified four specific measures which Unite believes could be markers on that roadmap.

“We need to ensure sustained Minimum Wage increases over the medium term to narrow the gap between the Minimum Wage and the Living Wage. But we also need to undertake specific policy measures to ensure that the Living Wage eventually becomes the new Minimum Wage.

“The first challenge facing us is to reduce the high living costs which are driving the Living Wage. This will require social investments in areas such as transport, affordable rents and childcare to reduce these costs to workers.

Secondly, the Government needs to take the lead by itself becoming a Living Wage employer and introducing ‘Living Wage clauses’ in all public procurement contracts. Thirdly, recognising that many workers may earn an hourly Living Wage but cannot get sufficient hours to make up a ‘Living Income’, the Government needs to implement the EU Directive on Part-Time Employees, ensuring that those workers who want extra hours can obtain them when they become available. Finally, the Joint Labour Committees need to be extended and deepened to ensure that more sectors are included in the bargaining framework.

“Unite believes that these four measures would take us some distance along to the road to a Living Wage economy”, Michael Taft concluded.


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Paula Geraghty

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