A union representing 40,000 retail and bar workers wants its members to be paid a minimum of €15 per hour — more than 50% higher than the national minimum wage.
In a speech to his union’s biennial conference in Wexford, Mandate general secretary John Douglas said “no retail worker in Ireland should earn less than the living wage”, which is currently set at €11.70 per hour.
He said the “union rate” should be “at least 30%” above the living wage, which equates to €15 per hour.
“We have a very serious problem in Ireland with, on the one hand, low pay and insecure work, and on the other hand, high costs of living,” said Mr Douglas.
“This is leading to many of the social problems we see today including the dramatic increase in homelessness across the country, along with high poverty and deprivation rates. If we are to tackle this crisis, it will mean winning significant pay increases for many low paid workers.”
The union’s general secretary said Ireland is one of the most profitable countries in the world in which to be a major retail outlet.
“In recent weeks Mandate has lodged claims in Dunnes Stores, Tesco, and others which would have life-changing impacts for our members,” he said.
“We know that Tesco Ireland make approximately €250m in profit every year while Dunnes Stores make €200m.
“There is absolutely no doubt that many employers can afford to increase pay rates for their staff and give them secure hour contracts. They simply choose not to, and instead prioritise shareholders and wealthy owners over their workers.
“There is only one real and effective solution to this, and that is for all retail and bar workers to get organised and prepared to stand up for better conditions of employment.”
He did say if an employer can prove it has a genuine inability to increase wages, his union will “not be left wanting”.
In a speech to delegates at the conference, ICTU general secretary Patricia King said imposed austerity measures have resulted in a “level of social scarring not seen in this country before”. She said one such scar was the housing emergency.
She also praised the stand taken by retail workers in defence of their terms and conditions.
“There can be no doubt that without the recent action of Tesco or Dunnes workers the Government would not be contemplating legislation to improve the rights of low wage workers,” she said. “These disputes instigated serious public debate on precarious work.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved