ICTU: Private unions should seek 3.1% pay hike

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) is urging unions in the private sector to seek a minimum pay increase of 3.1% and compensation for what it termed the “excessive costs” of housing, childcare and pensions.

ICTU makes the call in its Private Sector Bulletin, which cites the improving economic and labour market situation and the increasing costs associated with childcare and housing as some of the reasons for the new pay claim.

The union’s private sector committee issued the advisory on pay bargaining for 2018 to member unions in the private sector, and says “through the normal collective bargaining processes and where appropriate, affiliate private sector unions should seek compensation for the excessive costs associated with housing, childcare provision and pensions.

“This is in addition to a minimum pay increase of 3.1% to take account of normal productivity and cost of living factors,” it said.

The Private Sector Bulletin said workers here have the second highest childcare costs in the OECD, and said many workers on average wages struggle to rent or buy homes.

“Low-wage workers are also more likely to be renters than homeowners and we can expect their cost of living increase to be somewhat larger in percentage terms than the average,” said ICTU. “For some workers overall, housing makes up 47% of total essential expenditure so the current growth in rent [+6.6% annually in the second quarter] is putting particular pressure on these workers.”

As for childcare, it said: “Out-of-pocket childcare costs are over three times the OECD average and while the long-term solution to market failure in the childcare sector is heavy state subsidisation or direct state provision, in the short-term the insufficiency of wage levels relative to childcare costs is pushing many lone parents and second earners out of the labour market altogether — to our collective economic cost.”

A year ago, unions asked that private sector workers get a €1,000 pay hike in 2016, after collaboration with the Nevin Economic Research Institute, which also assisted with this December’s bulletin. Business group Ibec dismissed the demand as “crude opportunism”.

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