At Impact’s annual conference in Killarney, national secretary Angela Kirk 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.
The living wage technical group has recommended earnings of €11.50 per hour for a single adult to maintain a minimum standard of living.
Ms Kirk said 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”.
However, she said that, without a living wage, that commitment could not be achieved as nobody can afford to save on the minimum wage.
She also claimed the programme’s aim to strengthen the role of the Low-Pay Commission in relation to the gender pay gap and in-work poverty is also set to fail.
“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,” said Ms Kirk.
She said the union 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. The floor rate of pay will rise from €10.25 to €13 per hour between 2016 and 2019.
Meanwhile, delegates at the conference have voted to continue talks on a possible merger with two civil service unions, the Civil, Public and Services Union and the Public Service Executive Union which, if successful, would create a new 80,000-strong organisation representing workers in the public service, commercial organisations, and state agencies.
Impact general secretary Shay Cody said the “New Union Project” would be better able to defend members’ interests.