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NUJ backs Irish congress pay strategy

3 December 2019

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions' (ICTU) private sector committee (PSC) has advised unions in the private sector to seek baseline pay increases ranging between 3.5 per cent and 4.5 per cent in 2020. The decision was taken at a meeting of the PSC on Monday 2 December and is supported by the NUJ.

Patricia King, ICTU general secretary, said:

"Despite the fact that average yearly earnings increased by 4.7 per cent year-on-year in the private sector in Q3 2019, all the indicators demonstrate that Ireland remains a low pay economy. According to EADS (Earnings Analysis CSO), median weekly earnings (2018) stood at €592.60 per week or €30,815 per annum. In the accommodation and food sector 68.1 per cent of workers earn below €400 per week. In wholesale and retail 43.9 per cent earn less than €400 per week. The position of female workers is even more stark, with the median weekly wage being €523.25 or €27,209 per annum. Low pay is also endemic amongst young workers."

ICTU advocated that the statutory wage-setting mechanisms currently in place had been rendered useless by an effective veto exercised by the employers through non-participation in the joint labour committees (JLC’s) system.

ICTU has called for legislative reform to ensure that the system of JLC’s can function more effectively.

Structured collective bargaining is one of the most effective means of eliminating low pay and government must act to support the functioning of collective bargaining in Ireland.

John Douglas, Mandate general secretary, said:

"The retail and hospitality sectors are examples of the kinds of employment where employers need to engage with unions in terms of wages and conditions. It is time to call out employers and it was time that workers in low paid sectors were treated fairly."

Tom McDonnell, of the Nevin Economic Research Institute, said while poverty and deprivation were falling, one in six people were experiencing deprivation and can only manage to pay for essentials; with some having to do without new shoes or clothes. He said:

"Ireland has a very high level of market inequality before tax and therefore social welfare payments have to compensate, this in effect subsidises low pay. In terms of unemployment, we are a mid-level performer but our performance relative to other EU countries."

Séamus Dooley, NUJ Irish secretary, said:

"The NUJ will be lodging claims in line with the congress guidelines. Media workers are struggling to survive. Journalism is becoming an unattractive option because of the deterioration in terms and conditions of employment in many companies. Quality journalism will not be possible unless employers engage in meaningful negotiations to address the erosion in pay congress has provide the framework for those negotiations."

Tags: , pay, ictu, ireland, collective bargaining, trade unions, terms and conditions, pay rise, pay claim