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National pay talks must be reconvened

5 August, 2008

Sinn Féin Economic Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD has today demanded that the government immediately reconvene the current national pay talks between unions and employers. The protection of low paid workers and alternative support and growth mechanisms for the SME sector must be the central focus of the government's role in the negotiations.

The Louth Deputy said:

"From the outset of the pay talks Sinn Féin was clear that the wage demands of low paid workers must be met. Cost of living expenses are continuing to rise and the stark reality for the low paid is that they cannot absorb increases in fuel, food and mortgage costs.

"We were clear that in these pay talks there needed to be a clear differentiation between high and low paid. During a time of economic instability it does not make sense to target the lower paid when seeking to achieve wage restraint.

"During the current round of pay talks, employers and business bodies have sought to scapegoat low paid workers. IBEC called for a pay freeze and the Small Firms Association wanted a cut in the minimum wage. I accept that small and medium sized business are experiencing fiscal insecurity but again targeting the lowest paid will to in the medium to long term address their current challenges.

"It is also important for employers and government to recognise that there are alternative ways to address the pressures on SMEs. This country's business regulatory regime is long overdue a review. SMEs receive the least state aid despite employing the bulk of the working population. Government is disproportionately supportive of FDI at the cost and neglect of the SME sector.

"Government continues to abandon low paid workers. Mandate are correct in their assertion that previous national percentage pay increases across the board have not worked - they disproportionately benefit better paid workers. This cannot continue.

"How Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mary Coughlin and Taoiseach Brian Cowen manage the current standoff between employers and unions over the coming weeks is critical. Leadership, a determination to protect low earners and implementing alternative supports to sustain and grow the SME sector must be central tenets to the government approach over the coming weeks." ENDS

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