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Minister: It's time to increase the minimum wage and here's how we'll do it

Ged Nash on why the Low Pay Commission is being set up and why the minimum wage should rise.

Yesterday, the ‘super junior’ jobs minister Ged Nash launched the applications process to serve on the Low Pay Commission. This new body’s main task will be to recommend the appropriate rate of the national minimum wage, but the Labour TD explains why it’s time for an increase anyway. 

THE COUNTRY IS doing better. Businesses, in the main, are doing better. It’s time that workers too do better and feel the impact of our recovering economy in their pockets.

It has been seven years since the minimum wage was increased in reality. Some 73,000 workers across this nation currently earn €8.65 per hour, according to the CSO.

In 2011, in the last days of the Fianna Fáil-led administration, that government slashed the minimum wage by €1 to €7.65. They would have us believe that this was a job creation measure.

The reality is that this callous cut neither created one more job nor improved the fiscal situation of the country a jot. All it did was make life even harder for those struggling to get by on the minimum wage.

I’m very glad that one of the first acts of this government was to reverse that cut and reinstate a rate of €8.65.

Now, I believe, it is time to examine the National Minimum Wage rate again.

Let me be very clear. I would like to see the National Minimum Wage progressively increase, if the economic circumstances, demands of job creation and social conditions allow. The National Minimum Wage represents the floor beneath which no working person should be allowed to fall.

But, what I do not want is to prevent any company from creating jobs. We are at one in this government in relation to the Jobs Agenda. Creating the conditions for job creation is our most important priority.

Ged Nash spoke to TheJournal.ie about the Low Pay Commission back in September: 

Source: Video TheJournal.ie/YouTube

It is also important that these are quality jobs that are sustainable with a fair rate of pay. Work should always pay. This forms part of my dignity at work agenda and I believe that the Low Pay Commission is a cornerstone of this.

The Low Pay Commission was an idea of the Tánaiste Joan Burton’s and forms part of the government’s Statement of Priorities.

The Low Pay Commission will be a nine-member body made up of a chairperson, three representatives with a good understanding of the low pay sector, three from employers’ interests preferably from sectors where the minimum wage is relevant and two academics.

They will examine data available from organisations like the CSO and the Department of Finance. But, alongside this hard data I expect them to leave the boardroom and go and consult directly with people who are on the minimum wage or pay the minimum wage.

This real lived experience, I believe, will be vital when it comes to the Commissioners agreeing on an appropriate rate. I expect them as they try to reach a consensus on the rate to recall the first-hand experience of the cornershop owner from Louth or the fast food worker in Limerick.

It will be a challenging task – balancing issues like unemployment and employment rates, the impact of any changes to the minimum wage on employment, the cost of living and competitiveness and changes generally in income distribution.

That is why we are seeking high calibre people to come forward to serve on the Commission.

Anyone who is interested in serving on the Low Pay Commission can do so on this website in line with the government’s new policy on appointments to State Boards.

I expect the first meeting of the new Commission to take place in February, and for them to report back to me with a recommended National Minimum Wage rate later in 2015.

And, it is my intention that if the Commission recommends a new rate, I will implement that swiftly.

Gerald Nash is the Minister for Business and Employment and a Labour TD for Louth

Read: Here’s some good news if you earn the minimum wage

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