- Ireland is a low-wage economy with a high cost of living – we will fight for decent pay, with a living wage the absolute minimum starting point
- An end to unpaid internships – work must pay
When Michael Noonan announced in last year’s Budget that his changes to the USC would mean that ‘over 700,000 income earners will not be liable to USC at all from next year’, his statement betrayed an uncomfortable truth for his Government: if 700,000 workers are not liable for USC, then that means there are 700,000 workers in Ireland who earn €13,000 or less per year. With approximately 1.9 million people in employment, that means 37% – well over a third – of Irish workers earn less than €13,000 a year.
Ireland had the second-highest percentage of low-paid jobs in the OECD in 2013, second only to the United States. 50% of all workers in Ireland earn €28,500 or less per year. The disposable income of Irish people is below the OECD average, and the fourth lowest in the EU15. While Michael Noonan calls households with an income of €70,000 per year ‘middle income’, the reality is that a household with an income of €75,000 a year is in the top 10% in the country.
Irish workers saw their income and conditions take a huge hit after the economic crisis, and while we’re told the economy is ‘recovering’ income and conditions certainly haven’t recovered across the board. Across all sectors, wages saw a drop between 2010 and the third quarter of 2015 – not all workers are seeing the benefits of the so-called ‘recovery’ in their wages.
14% of all those at risk of poverty in 2015 were in work, while almost 20%, or a fifth, of all workers are living in deprivation. All told, 215,000 more people are now living in deprivation than there were when this Government came to power in 2011. More than 40% of workers have €100 or less left at the end of each month. More people were at risk of poverty in 2014 than were in 2011. If all social transfers were excluded from income, the ‘at risk of poverty’ rate in 2014 would have been almost 50%. The number of households getting Family Income Supplement has increased by 70% since 2011. For low and middle income earners who haven’t slipped into poverty, the costs of essentials like housing, childcare, and healthcare mean that huge chunks of their income disappear to pay for the basics of life, leaving them with little or nothing at the end of every month.
More workers are working in more precarious jobs, forced into part-time working because they’re not being offered full-time hours. Nearly 40% of all those working part-time only do so because they can’t get full-time work. Meanwhile, more and more workers are expected to work in the evenings and at weekends – the proportion of employees regularly working evenings increased from 9% in 2001 to almost 14% in 2014; Saturday work from 19% to 28%, and Sunday work from 10% to over 17%. Despite these increases, things like Sunday pay and overtime are becoming a distant dream. Only 2% of all employees in 2014 were paid overtime. On top of this, labour market security in Ireland is well below the OECD average.
There is a race to the bottom in Ireland in terms of pay and conditions, and this Government is cheerleading it. Not only that, they have actively participated, promoting unpaid internships and work through JobBridge, Gateway and Tús.
We need to fight for decent work, decent pay, and decent conditions. Agreements like TTIP represent a very real, and very frightening threat to the working lives of all workers, and yet the Government has shown no signs of taking this threat seriously – waving away criticisms with nothing more than the vaguest of assurances that TTIP is nothing to be afraid of.
Work must pay enough to live a dignified life, and workers need confidence that legislators will protect their interests and their working conditions, not devastate them. 35,000 young people emigrated last year – altogether 250,000 people left Ireland between 2010 and 2015. If they had stayed, our unemployment rate would be double what it is now. If people can’t afford to live dignified lives no matter how hard they work – if housing, childcare, health, education cost so much that jobs can’t offer a decent quality of life, then people will continue to leave. And those who don’t leave will continue to struggle. This is not the kind of society we want.
Fairness and decency for all, above the interests of the few – we will keep up the fight for decent work, decent pay, and dignified conditions for all workers.