IMPACT trade union’s conference in Killarney has been told that the new Government has “set a course to fail spectacularly” on its own commitments on job security, the gender pay gap and in-work poverty.
IMPACT national secretary Angela Kirk was speaking on motions to ensure no public service worker earned less than the Living Wage, and the application of the Living Wage for all workers employed in all contracts for service.
The Living Wage Technical Group has recommended that earnings of €11.50 per hour is required for a single adult to maintain a minimum standard of living.
Angela told delegates that while improvements to the national minimum wage are welcome, the Government’s “meagre” minimum wage target of €10.50 per hour over the next five years falls well short of a Living Wage.
“The target the Government has set itself – with the endorsement of a considerable chunk of the Opposition – lacks ambition, throws the work of the Low Pay Commission into suspended animation, continues to expose younger workers to sub-minima rates of pay, and tolerates the potential displacement of minimum-wage workers for those paid at even lower rates,” she said.
Angela added that the Programme for Government commits itself to ‘tackle the problems caused by the increased casualisation of work that prevents workers from being able to save or have any job security.’
She commented, “Without a Living Wage, this cannot be achieved – nobody can save on the minimum wage.”
Angela said the programme’s aim to ‘strengthen the role of the Low Pay Commission in relation to the gender pay gap and in-work poverty’ was also set to fail. “By setting the bar below the Living Wage, the Government has set a course to fail spectacularly on these commitments. We need to secure the Living Wage as a principal because this new Government lacks the ambition to do so,” she said.
She added that there are members of the union, and groups of workers IMPACT would seek to represent, for whom the need for a Living Wage is a real issue.
IMPACT’s FGE branch represents service officers in the civil service, who don’t receive a Living Wage until their sixth year of employment.
Angela added, “If we look at the experience of those who work in the early childhood sector, wage rates are wildly varied, and many of these third level-trained and qualified workers earn barely above the minimum wage.”
Angela said IMPACT had made a significant breakthrough last year for school secretaries and caretakers, when an arbitration finding established standardised rates of pay, effective from the beginning of this year, and annual pay improvements up to 2019. Prior to the arbitration, pay rates for these grant-paid workers were established by individual boards of management.
“Their experience was similar to that facing early childhood workers today. The floor rate of pay will rise from €10.25 to €13 per hour between 2016 and 2019, with further discussions to take place in 2019 on achieving parity with their department-paid colleagues. IMPACT will not rest until that parity is achieved, and this is why we must establish the Living Wage as a minimum standard within the public sector,” she said.