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Labour’s limp Low Pay Commission won’t even scrape the surface of Low Pay – Tóibín

24 June, 2015

Speaking in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin TD and Jobs Spokesperson Peadar Tóibín described the Low Pay Commission established by the Business and Employment Minister Ged Nash as lacking ambition and called for its remit to be broadened and enhanced.

The Sinn Féin Meath West TD said:

“Sinn Féin supports the establishment of a Low Pay Commission, but we want the Commission to be fit for purpose and ambitious for the results it seeks to achieve. 

“Ged Nash tells us the Minimum Wage/Low Pay Commission has been modelled on the British Commission established seventeen years ago. Recent reports into the British model have described its role as short term and narrow, and called for a broader more ambitious strategy to tackle low pay. 

“The Resolution Foundation’s Review of the Future of the National Minimum Wage Chaired by the founding Chair of the Low Pay Commission has called on the British government to make it an explicit long-term ambition of economic policy to reduce the incidence and persistence of low pay in the British labour market, and to broaden and elevate the Low Pay Commission to be its main watchdog on low pay.

“Britain’s experience offers us a real opportunity to construct a Commission that is both relevant and ambitious in its purpose. Ireland is at a crossroads, and whilst it may not be politically opportune for Labour or Fine Gael to acknowledge the scale of income and economic inequality in Ireland, they have a responsibility to do so.

“Ireland has a problem with low pay. We have one of the highest rates of low pay in the developed world and of underemployment across the EU. Women are disproportionately affected by low paid insecure work and migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to sharp practices by employers. 

“It is astounding that a Labour Minister would establish a Low Pay Commission that excludes from its remit the setting of targets to eliminate low pay, the incremental introduction of a living wage, an independent watchdog role on compliance and enforcement of the national minimum wage or to have specific regard to gender income disparity, and broader pay related inequalities. 

“Labour has focussed the Commission’s attention to the competitiveness of the economy and currency exchange rates but has deliberately excluded key factors such as zero and low hour contracts, cost of living, in-work poverty levels, quality of job creation, and the social and economic impact of current and future wage levels or indeed the associated cost or benefit to the State. There is no mention of any reference to median income, a benchmark against which the national minimum wage was supposed to be set.

“Sinn Féin is ambitious for what the Low Pay Commission can achieve, and we need to draw from the existing wealth of expertise and research available on how we can meet this objective.

“There is a strong business case to make for expanding the remit of the Commission to consider low pay, zero and low hour contracts and the introduction of a Living Wage and working towards a higher skill, higher wage economy. 

“Tackling low pay is good for society, for the economy, good for business and also good for the government finances. Limiting the policy and political debate to a discussion focussed solely on the Minimum Wage is a wasted opportunity of enormous proportions.” 

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