THE Labour Party believes there is a need to change wage agreements for lower-paid workers, according to leader Eamon Gilmore.
But he said it will be a decision for both parties in Government on exactly what changes will take place in areas such as overtime and Sunday pay.
Mr Gilmore denied there had been an orchestrated attack by Labour backbench TDs on proposals by Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton to reform agreements with lower-paid workers, mainly in the catering and hospitality sectors.
Labour TDs were particularly annoyed with Mr Bruton’s suggestion that the law on double time for Sunday work in some sectors should be changed.
Mr Gilmore said he “wouldn’t discourage” Labour TDs from expressing their views on the matter. But he said the Government accepts there is a need to change the Joint Labour Committee (JLC) agreements for lower paid workers.
“The bottom line here is that there is a necessity to reform the way the JLCs are operating. The Government is committed to reforming that,” the Tánaiste said.
Mr Bruton “has a job to do and I support him in doing his job”, he said, adding: “The decision on what the outcome will be will be a decision that will be made by Government.”
Following the publication of the Duffy report on reform of these agreements, Mr Bruton has embarked on a process of consultation with unions and employers before bringing proposals to cabinet.
Another senior Labour minister, Pat Rabbitte, said Mr Bruton is a “politician of conviction and has convictions about certain things”. The Communications Minister said his Cabinet colleague is “entitled to inform the debate” on the issue.
But “ultimately he will have to have Government weigh up and assess whatever proposals he brings”, Mr Rabbitte said. He said the JLC system needs to be “modernised and updated” and he would be “broadly in favour of implementing the Duffy report”. He said it was “utter complete nonsense” that Labour backbenchers had been “sent out by the leadership” to attack Mr Bruton’s plans.
Mr Rabbitte dismissed the Fine Gael TDs who had “grasped with both hands” the chance to have their name in newspapers by suggesting this was the case.
Mr Gilmore said it was a “healthy thing” that back bench TDs expressed their views. “They don’t seek my blessing nor do I give my blessing,” he said.
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