The rise in the cost of living is hurting individuals, households and families in every community across Ireland.
Inflation has risen to a 22-year high and is likely to continue its spiral. The rising costs of fuel, food, shelter and basic necessities are now out of control.
Everyone feels the need – especially those who were already barely making ends meet and now urgently need help.
The reality is that the government’s response to the cost-of-living crisis simply doesn’t go far enough. We need more state-led action and intervention to address the real needs of our struggling communities.
We need government action now to address people’s worries – worries about the next unexpected bill that comes in, about the rising costs of groceries, childcare, electricity and transportation – and about the unaffordable rent increases.
The failed government policies of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in recent years have resulted in record rental cost increases.
The average monthly rent in Dublin is now around 2,000 euros – yet tenants have comparatively weak protection against eviction. Far too many people are now afraid of losing their homes.
Energy, food, transport, utilities, housing – price increases are passed on to households everywhere. People are left with less and less wages in their pockets.
That’s why Labor believes Ireland needs a pay rise.
A national raise means putting money in the pockets of those who need it most. It means making sure that monthly or weekly wages go further. It means implementing an effective universal wage increase by raising the minimum wage – but it also means tackling the huge costs faced by so many households.
There is also a need for negotiated wage increases for both private and public sector workers.
These need to be negotiated in both the public and private sectors, but when companies raise prices to protect profitability, employees need to be compensated too.
Ireland needs a pay rise because every day I meet voters whose incomes are simply no longer sufficient to keep up with rising prices for basic services. I hear from people living in real fear that they won’t be able to keep their homes, heat their homes, or put food on their tables.
One of the main reasons we need a pay rise is that low pay is rife across Ireland. Every fifth worker is officially classified as a low earner. We have one of the highest levels of low wages in the EU, ranking 8th out of 27 countries.
Low-income earners are hardest hit by rising prices. As an immediate measure, the national minimum wage must be raised to ensure their standard of living.
Labor have called for a €1 increase and a way of providing a living wage as the standard in our recent application to the Low Pay Commission.
A study published by ESRI last year shows that raising the minimum wage will not lead to an overall rise in labor costs, assuaging the concerns of the corporate lobby.
Low wage levels have remained stable over the past two decades. This was the case before the pandemic – and has gotten worse as inflation has risen.
The usual suspects may argue that companies cannot afford wage increases. However, this analysis misses the positive effects of wage increases, especially for those on modest incomes.
First, wage increases for low-wage workers increase corporate income; They are fed back into the local economy, particularly in sectors that rely on discretionary spending, such as hospitality and retail.
Second, all the evidence suggests that higher wages do increase productivity. We know how difficult it is for many companies to recruit staff – for bars and restaurants, childcare and home care. These are sectors that suffer greatly from high staff turnover, which entails significant costs.
Higher net rewards for employees and salaried employees in these areas would reduce employer costs and improve business results over time.
Most importantly, eliminating the low-wage trap for workers and increasing real household incomes would help build a more just and equitable society.
Here’s how we can begin. Labor calls for an immediate increase in the minimum wage. We also call on the government to reduce childcare costs; Extension of free family doctor care to all under 18-year-olds; introduce free public transport; and freeze rents for three years. These are actions that could be taken immediately to help those struggling the most to make ends meet.
We in the Labor Party firmly believe that by sharing resources we can build a better and fairer Ireland. Tax revenues for the first quarter increased by €4 billion on an annualized basis, with the government benefiting from an unexpected sales tax effect due to higher prices. Therefore, the public sector has the leeway and can afford wage increases for public employees who are on duty
the front line providing the vital services.
Labor has also called for a windfall tax on the profits of energy companies benefiting from soaring oil and gas prices to fund public coffers for the pay rise.
We believe that a combination of these measures would provide Ireland with an effective pay rise and a much needed rest for workers.
Labor’s pay rise package would create a fair and equal Ireland.
Ivana Bacik is Labor Party leader and TD for Dublin Bay South
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/low-paid-workers-are-being-hit-hardest-by-rising-prices-ireland-needs-a-national-minimum-wage-increase-41605956.html Low wage earners are hit hardest by rising prices – Ireland needs an increase in the national minimum wage