January–February 2015        

Unite demands that the government treat young workers equally

Unite has reiterated its call for the minimum wage to be increased to €9.65 an hour for all workers. With one in every five people at work suffering deprivation, tackling poverty pay must be the priority.
     At present the cut-rate minimum wage payable to young workers and first-time workers is €6.92 per hour in the first year of employment and €7.79 in the second year, as opposed to €8.65 for “experienced adult workers.” A report by the Council of Europe found that the cut-rate minimum wage for young and first-time workers is not enough to ensure a decent standard of living. Commenting on this, the regional secretary of Unite, Jimmy Kelly, called on the government to ensure that its forthcoming review of the minimum wage abolishes any age discrimination. He also reiterated the union’s call for an increase of €1 in the minimum wage.
     “At €8.65 per hour Ireland’s minimum wage is already substantially below the living-wage figure of €11.45 calculated last year. Now the Council of Europe has weighed in on the debate, pointing out that the cut-rate minimum wage payable to young workers is in breach of article 4 of the Social Charter, since it forces the young workers affected below the ‘decent remuneration’ threshold of 60 per cent of the net average wage.
     “In the year after the crisis began, young people suffered an earnings fall nearly four times as severe as the national average. They have been disproportionately hit by unemployment and emigration. They have had their social protection rates slashed by half. And many of those who do manage to find employment find themselves working on wages 20 per cent below the national minimum rate.
     “Unite has long urged the government to raise the minimum wage by €1 per hour, to €9.65 per hour, in order to lift people out of poverty and help kickstart a wage-led recovery. We are also calling on the government to ensure that the forthcoming review of the minimum wage abolishes any age discrimination.
     “At a time when one in five people in work suffer deprivation, tackling poverty pay must be a priority.”

     Laura Duggan, a Unite Youth activist, added:
     “The use of a three-tier minimum wage system strikes at the very core of what a minimum wage represents. It unfairly penalises young workers newly entering the work force at a time when finding work itself is a struggle. This, alongside the appalling abuses of Job Bridge and its ilk, highlights the second-class status of young workers in Ireland. This report simply demonstrates a fact already known to the majority of young workers: the state refuses to see them as full citizens who deserve the same rights and protections as all other workers and would prefer to force them into poverty and out of the country than to remedy that reality.”

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