Taoiseach denies leaving low-paid workers 'out in the cold'

Taoiseach denies leaving low-paid workers 'out in the cold'

Taoiseach Micheál Martin denied his Government has 'left workers out in the cold' after the Irish Congress of Trade Union withdrew from the Low Pay Commission. Picture: Julien Behal 

The Taoiseach Micheál Martin has denied that his Government has "left workers out in the cold" after the Irish Congress of Trade Union's withdrawal from the Low Pay Commission.

In a fiery Leaders' Questions, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald accused the Government of leaving low-paid workers, many of whom have been classed as essential workers during the pandemic, behind.

She said that Mr Martin's Government had "turned its back" on those on the minimum wage and said that Ireland now has "a Low Pay Commission which will not deal with low pay".

"This has the fingerprints of the Tánaiste and Fine Gael all over it."

"To summarise the situation, since 1 September, over the last three weeks, the Government has locked 153,000 of the lowest-paid workers out of the Emergency Wage Subsidy Scheme, the PUP has been cut for those losing their jobs because of Government-imposed public health restrictions, and now we have a Low Pay Commission that will not deal with low pay. 

Is this the Taoiseach's version of "we are all in this together"? 

"I ask that because it strikes me that all this has the fingerprints of the Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Varadkar, and Fine Gael all over it. 

"What does the Taoiseach, as the head of Government, propose to do to reverse these absolutely disastrous decisions that will injure and hurt low-paid workers and their families?"

The Taoiseach said that the Sinn Féin leader had made "an extraordinary charge", saying that the Government had implemented the last five recommendations of the commission.

"The State's intervention in supporting workers this year has been unprecedented."

Mr Martin said that the Sinn Féin leader had "told untruths" on the Government's supports of workers, saying that Ms McDonald "feels the need to distort and smear people who are doing their best" for political advantage.

"Right now, it is an extraordinary political charge for the deputy to make about the Government not supporting low-paid workers. 

"Turning to the EWSS, that scheme will see 350,000 workers supported by the State, as it continues. 

"More than 200,000 workers are supported by the PUP, and another roughly 200,000 are supported on the live register. 

"Approximately 750,000 workers, therefore, are still being supported by the State, right now, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"To try to create the impression, therefore, that the Government is out to get people is outrageous in the context of an unprecedented intervention by the Government and the State to support workers at all levels, to support sectors and to do so in a sustainable way that can keep us going right throughout 2021. 

"That is what the Government has been about."

Ms McDonald responded that "the only thing that is extraordinary" was the Taoiseach's "lack of fairness and his even more extraordinary lack of self-awareness in this regard". 

The Taoiseach responded that Ms McDonald was "fundamentally wrong".

ICTU had said it had decided to pull out of the commission after it became clear other members of the commission were not prepared to increase the national minimum wage beyond 1%.

The minimum wage hourly rate is currently €10.10.

More in this section

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.

Puzzles logo
IE-logo

Puzzles hub

Visit our brain gym where you will find simple and cryptic crosswords, sudoku puzzles and much more. Updated at midnight every day.