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Minimum wage cut a green light for employers offensive       printable version
02 Feb 2011: posted by the editor - Ireland

Low paid private sector workers must ready themselves a fight to defend living standards
Union leadership must rise to the challenge of attack on workers' right and conditions.
Opening a press conference Cllr. Richard Boyd Barrett, People Before Profit and United Left Alliance candidate for Dun Laoghaire commented: "Yesterday we saw the ridiculous spectacle of some of the highest paid people in this country lecturing the lowest paid about how they have to accept another pay cut on top of the Universal Social Charge, changes to the tax bands, reduction in Child Benefit.

"This is a green light by the government for an employer's offensive. The attack on the minimum wage combined with social welfare cuts and the incorporation of the low paid into the tax net is part of a wider agenda of forcing wages down and ensuring that the 'race to the bottom' is actively facilitated.

"But we need to be very clear about this. We can resist these cuts. We are calling on trade union leaders to provide real leadership on the issue and to fight to defend the wages of its lowest paid members."

Joe Higgins, Socialist Party MEP and United Left Alliance candidate for Dublin West commented: "The competitiveness arguments presented in favour of this cut are false to the core. Those sectors where the minimum wage and Registered Employment Agreements, which refer to the minimum wage as a baseline, are most concentrated are not engaged in exports but indigenous economic activity.

"The minimum wage as it previously stood at €8.65 an hour was too low when one takes into account the cost of living and the poor social wage. This reduction, if enforced by employers will tip thousands of families further into poverty.

"Employers up and down the country are going to seek the 'written consent' of their existing employees for the amendment of their contracts permitting the reduction of their wages. A campaign must be waged by the unions, particularly MANDATE and SIPTU to urge workers not to give this consent to their employers but to organize resistance to this attack."

Cllr. Clare Daly, Socialist Party and United Left Alliance candidate for Dublin North added: "The next step in the employer offensive will be an attack on the Registered Employment Agreements and Employment Regulation Orders which cover 300,000 private sector workers. Batt O'Keeffe in one of his last acts as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation ordered a 'review' of these.

"Already the REAs for building workers have been reduced by 7.5% and there is a loud lobby from the restaurant sector calling for pay reductions and the ending of Sunday and overtime premia.

"All these attacks taken together with the various social welfare reductions and tax hikes that have been loaded on working people and the unemployed will reinforce the deflationary spiral the indigenous economy has been locked in. It is a strategy that has failed since the crisis begin and the trade union movement has to step up to the mark to prevent further suffering for their members."

Cllr. Joan Collins People Before Profit and United Left Alliance candidate for Dublin South Central also commented: "The cut to the minimum wage is a scandalous attack on the low paid. On the same day that Brian Cowen and Fianna Fail finally left the Dáil with six figure pensions and golden handshake deals, paid for by taxpayers, the low-paid are once again being forced to bear the brunt of the attacks.

"The attack on the minimum wage is about continuing a wider strategy of protecting those at the top of society who created this crisis while making working people bear the brunt. Social Justice Ireland's report, launched this week, shows that while poverty in Ireland is high, government policies over the past two decades have systematically moved resources towards the top ten per cent dramatically widening the gap between rich and poor so that today the overall share of the top 10 percent is nearly 11 times the share of the bottom 10 percent.”

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