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Taoiseach fails to rule out minimum wage cut but backs cosy deal for top civil servants – Ó Caoláin

2 February, 2010 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has described as “alarming” the Taoiseach’s failure to rule out a cut to the statutory minimum wage. Replying to Deputy Ó Caoláin in the Dáil today, the Taoiseach Brian Cowen also defended the Government’s decision to exempt some of the highest paid civil servants from the full effects of the public service pay cuts.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“I challenged the Taoiseach to rule out cuts to the statutory minimum wage and it is alarming that he failed to rule out such an attack on the lowest paid workers in our society. Instead the Taoiseach attempted to justify the decision to exempt top civil servants from the full effects of pay cuts while lower paid public servants are punished.

“Following the savage Budget cuts to wages, social welfare and public services, there were immediately calls from some representatives of business interests for a reduction in the minimum wage. That is exactly as trade unionists, Sinn Féin and others predicted – that an attack on the wages of lower paid public service workers would lead to similar attacks in the private sector. Now the Taoiseach has refused to rule out a further attack on the least well off.

“The Taoiseach also defended the Government’s intention to bring in amendments to industrial relations law to allow employers to apply to the Labour Court for an exemption from the requirements of the Employment Regulation Orders (ERO's) and Registered Employment Agreements (REA's). For decades these have protected workers from exploitation and ensured that there are agreed minimum rates of pay in industries across the economy.

“If these amendments are forced through then we will see pay rates across the economy driven down to the minimum wage level and below.

“Government policy is also encouraging profitable companies to lay off workers unnecessarily as in Rye Valley Foods in Monaghan or to impose unacceptable working conditions as in Kingspan in Co. Cavan.

“A reversal of pay cuts for lower paid public servants must be put on the table if there is to be any hope of a resumption of social partnership negotiations.

“In the talks before the Budget the public service unions were prepared to agree sweeping changes in work practices that would have had major implications for workers across the health sector in particular. This was thrown away by the Government which is clearly determined to drive forward with a low pay policy in the public and private sectors regardless of the consequences.” ENDS

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