So a few days ago, Tanaiste Joan Burton announced that they may raise the minimum wage from €8.65 to €11.45. In the same breath, she talked about a new pay deal for the public sector and Labour’s wish to decrease taxes for middle to low-income earners. Sounds great doesn’t it? Boom times are back! Woohoo. Let’s splash the cash…. Yeehaw! wait! WAIT! … [Checks pockets] I still have the same measly pennies in my pocket after all my bills are paid. I don’t feel any better off with job security or future prospects. So boom times aren’t back? Phew. Didn’t like who were during those times anyway. But if we’re not going through a whirlwind of financial success, greed induced arrogance and economic chaos, then what is happening? Ohhhh, I get it. There’s an election around the corner, isn’t there? Because something smells wiffy here. These highfalutin ideas, while they teeter on the edge of positivity and a great outlook on the Irish economy, they feel completely unfounded. What basis do we have for giving a wage increase?
Okay yes, the public sector got shafted. They took a huge hit and yes are still suffering the consequences. But so too is the private sector. Who’s got our back? Take the Clery’s workers for example. They were given an hours notice that they were being let go. One hour! Their bosses have literally wiped their hands clean of taking any responsibility for their redundancy and have thrown it back on the State. Yes, us. Another thing we have to shell out for. As a long time private sector worker I could tell you about the insecurities a lot of us (not all, of course) feel in our daily working lives. How most of us don’t have health insurance, a pension or a permanent contract. But that’s for another day. What I’m basically trying to say is while it would be lovely to give the public sector the pay increase they deserve, there are a lot of other people in this country in just as precarious positions and with no one to protect them.
If we have a bit of money going spare, shouldn’t we be looking at the areas that really need it? The health system for one. Come on, all we hear about is people constantly on trolleys, waiting for beds. It’s appalling. What about education. 2013 saw another 10% cut to teaching supports for children with disabilities. Bringing that to a total of 25% over 3 years, according to Inclusion Ireland. These are the real people in need. Give support and better financing to these areas and we will all benefit. Maybe not in our pocket, but knowing that we’re striving to create a fairer society that helps to support all the vulnerable.
As for the minimum wage….. Yes, €8.65 is low when you think of the cost of living in Ireland. Or if you’re trying to raise a family and pay the extortionate rents this country seems to have no control over. But then I looked up the average minimum wage in Europe and we don’t fair too be badly. We’re actually in what’s classified as Group 3 – the group with the highest minimum wage along with Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemborg. You could say it’s all relative. Higher standard of living, higher costs, therefore a higher minimum wage is needed. But is it not a bit of a vicious cycle? I worry that our Labour representatives haven’t really thought through the impact of this. If employers are paying more to employees they then start charging more for their services or products and we suddenly have an inflation of the boom time scale, without the guarantee of the boom time riches. I just think more thought and consideration needs to be put into this and not to just pander to what Ms Burton feels the voters want. The Department of Finance (Richard Bruton) did seem a bit hesitant about this proposal a few months back and were, surprisingly enough, showing a measured approach in how to help those on low and middle-income wages. Finally some sense from someone. Let’s hope they can come together to find a realistic approach and not just bow to the pressures of upcoming elections.