Minimum wage rise 'hardly enough to lift a family out of poverty', says Brendan Howlin

Minimum wage rise 'hardly enough to lift a family out of poverty', says Brendan Howlin

By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Political Reporter

New plans to increase the minimum wage by just 10c will fail to lift struggling families out of poverty, according to Brendan Howlin.

Mr Howlin also said it will mean that initial programme for government ambitions to address sub-standard salaries will not now be met until 2029.

The Labour leader made the claims in the Dáil this afternoon, saying the increase is inadequate and falls far short of what vulnerable households really need.

Speaking during the latest leaders questions debate, the opposition leader and former public expenditure minister said the Low Pay Commission's decision to only recommend a minimum wage rise from €9.15c to €9.25c will do little to help people struggling to pay their bills.

Noting the figure is significantly below a programme for government commitment to increase the minimum wage to €10.50c before the next election, he told Taoiseach Enda Kenny the recommended rise is failing the people it is meant to help.

"For a low paid worker, this [increase] amounts to just €200 a year, hardly enough to lift a family out of poverty," Mr Howlin noted.

"We expected a minimum wage rise to around €11.50c [the figure outlined in Labour's election manifesto]. It's very disappointing for the thousands of people on low pay.

"Your own programme for government said the increase would be up to €10.50c an hour within five years. If we continue with the level outlined today, we won't see that level reached until 2029," he said.

Responding to the criticism of the wage increase, the Taoiseach said it is clear that fears about the damage a Brexit fallout may cause to businesses in Ireland played a role in the commission choosing to limit any increase.

The Fine Gael leader said the initially projected €10.50c figure outlined in the programme for government was "what might be achieved over five years" and stressed the increase to only €9.25c "is an indication of how serious employers view Brexit".

Mr Kenny stressed his Government is focussed on helping people at risk of poverty and ensuring the creation of a living wage.

However, returning to the potential external factors which may limit a significant minimum wage rise, he repeated that there are "possible implications from Brexit" that businesses - some of which were involved in the commission's decision - had to plan for.

Under now-published plans, the Low Pay Commission has recommended that 70,000 workers on the minimum wage should see their hourly pay packets increase by 10c.

Someone on the existing €9.15c minimum wage received €356.84c a week, a figure that will rise to €360.75c if the new increase is adopted.


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