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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 5 May 2022

Vol. 1021 No. 5

Living Wage Bill 2022: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the law relating to the determination, declaration and review of a national minimum hourly rate of pay for employees so as to arrive at and thereafter preserve an hourly rate that represents a living income; and to provide for related matters.

It is timely that I seek to introduce this Bill today, because last weekend we marked May Day when across the world we celebrate workers and advances and progress on workers' rights, but also note what still has to be done. I was proud to march in Belfast and Dublin in both large marches on our island to celebrate May Day, which is of course an international celebration.

It is in the spirit of seeking to advance the cause of workers' rights and ensure that we are building on past progress that we are introducing this important Bill, which seeks to ensure that the hundreds of thousands of people who are on low pay in Ireland can get, in effect, the pay rise they so badly need. The purpose of the Bill is to amend the National Minimum Wage Acts so as to provide for a pathway to a living wage as the national minimum wage.

Our Bill would transform the low pay commission into a living wage commission and assign it new duties to enable it to make recommendations to ensure that the minimum wage is transformed into a living wage over a three-year period. We provide the definition of a living wage, meaning an annual wage that, in the opinion of the commission, if paid to a single adult person living alone and in full-time employment would afford that person a standard of living that meets the person's needs at a minimum but socially acceptable level.

I acknowledge that the programme for Government committed to progress from the current national minimum wage to a living wage over the lifetime of the Government, but we in the Labour Party are conscious that nothing has yet been done to make any progress or deliver on this commitment. We understand it would require legislation in order to change the remit of the low pay commission, and that is precisely what this Bill seeks to do.

The Bill is also timely because we are seeing an unprecedented spike in the cost of living, a spike that is affecting every household, individual, family and community across Ireland. Inflation is surging to a 22-year high and the costs of fuel, rent, housing, food, childcare and basic services are rising. Even the price of basic items like bread and milk are rising. All of us are hearing daily from constituents who are feeling a real squeeze and whose incomes are no longer enough to meet the rising cost of living that they face.

The Government response to the cost of living crisis has simply not gone far enough. Ireland need a pay rise. In particular, for those on low pay we need a clear increase in the national minimum wage in order that it can rise to a genuinely living wage. A national pay rise means more than that. It means creating an effective pay rise by addressing the costs of basic services for which people are paying after-tax income, such as healthcare and childcare, services which in other countries are heavily subsidised or free. We are unapologetic about the need to ensure that the costs of those services are addressed and tackled in a serious and substantial way in order to give people what is effectively a pay rise.

I am conscious that at the weekend, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, produced a report on this very topic about the need to ensure that incomes are adequate to meet the cost of basic services, not only by increasing incomes but also by addressing the cost of those services. We in the Labour Party are also unapologetic about the need for negotiated pay rises for those who may not be on low pay but whose income is simply no longer enough to meet the rising costs they face in housing and feeding and accessing care for their children. For all of these reasons, we are conscious that this is an important time to seek a legislative intervention to increase the national minimum wage.

We will bring forward the Bill during our Private Members' time next Wednesday. I am delighted to introduce it today, in the week of May Day, and in light of our clear call on Government that Ireland now needs a pay rise.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.
Cuireadh an Dáil ar fionraí ar 1.17 p.m. agus cuireadh tús leis arís ar 1.57 p.m.
Sitting suspended at 1.17 p.m. and resumed at 1.57 p.m.