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Another 50c an hour 'won't help families with spiralling rents and extra taxes'

But business groups are against any rise in the minimum wage.

Image: AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis

Updated 17.14

A PROPOSAL TO lift the national minimum wage has been dismissed as a “box-ticking exercise” which failed to match the increases brought in elsewhere in Europe.

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan said Ireland was one of only four EU countries that hadn’t increased hourly earnings for their lowest-paid workers in recent years.

It comes after the newly-established Low Pay Commission moved to recommend a 50c rise in the floor rate to €9.15 per hour.

But Boylan said the recommended increase of 5oc was “not enough” and the purchasing power of those on the lowest wages had gone down.

This minimal increase will not help families and individuals aspiring towards a fair recovery when it comes straight back out of their pockets again with spiralling rents and extra taxes,” she said.

Sinn Féin has said it would lift the minimum wage €1 per hour and move towards replacing it with a living wage as part of its priorities if elected.

Boylan Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Earlier, Ibec added its name to the chorus-line of business lobby groups to complain about a potential rise in the minimum wage.

CEO Danny McCoy said it was “inexplicable” that the wage rise was being suggested given the economic evidence available.

“The knock-on impact of a rise on wage expectations across the economy is a real concern,” he said.

In the boom years Irish labour costs drifted way out of line with competitor economies. We ultimately paid a very high price in terms of job losses and business closures.”

Prices were still below where they were in 2008 so the real value of the minimum wage had increased during the financial crisis, McCoy said.

McCoy Ibec CEO Danny McCoy Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Irleand

Consumer price figures from the CSO show overall costs last year were slightly lower than the peak level, although the rates for some essentials like education, health and transport have increased significantly over the same period.

‘Social and economic benefits’

The UK recently lifted its minimum wage to £6.70, or about €9.60 at the current exchange rate.

Unions have called for the Irish rate to be lifted to a “living wage” level of about €11.50, which would catapult the Republic past Luxembourg to have the highest hourly rate in the EU.

Minimum wage Monthly minimum wages across Europe, as of January this year Source: Eurostat

Trade union Unite yesterday said the proposed 50c rise was half what was needed and the government should put in place a “medium-term strategy” of lifting minimum pay to living wage levels.

Its secretary, Jimmy Kelly, said the plan would have “both social and economic benefits”.

“Once again, it seems that low-paid workers are at the back of the queue when it comes to sharing in the fruits of recovery,” he said.

‘Fragile’ recovery

Meanwhile, the latest survey of small- and medium-sized businesses showed local SMEs were optimistic about the future.

The latest business trends survey from the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) featured rising sentiment in 10 out of the 12 indicators it measured.

The strongest results were in positive expectations for the future, business confidence and sales expectations.

economic recovery table Source: ISME

The group has estimated that on the strength of their most recent results, the SME sector could be create another 50,000 jobs.

However, ISME has also flagged its concerns over any rise in the minimum wage, claiming the change could damage the “fragile” economic recovery.

With reporting from Michael Sheils McNamee

First published 7.00am

Read: These are the jobs with the brightest futures in Ireland right now

Also: Should the minimum wage be raised to €11.50 an hour?

About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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