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Government make big decisions

Wednesday, 7th October, 2020 2:55pm

While this year we truly came to understand who frontline workers are, many of them are not well paid. Many people who work in shops or as drivers or cleaners earn the mimimim wage.

This week the Government approved an increase in the National Minimum Wage by ten cent an hour, which means it will be brought to €10.20 per hour from 1 January. Is this enough?

The move should benefit over 122,000 minimum wage workers, but some unions are very critical of an increase that is less than one per cent.

A group called the Living Wage Technical Group was established in March 2014 to establish a methodology for calculating the Republic of Ireland Living Wage.

A living wage is one which makes possible a minimum acceptable standard of living. It is evidence based and grounded in social consensus, according to the group which includes economists.

They calculated the 2020/21 Living Wage for the Republic of Ireland as €12.30 per hour.

General Secretary Patricia King of Irish Congress of Trade Unions and General Secretary of Mandate Gerry Light quit the Low Pay Commission a few weeks ago because they felt the group's proposed ten cent increase was not enough of an increase.

This week Patricia King said: “Many of the workers on the minimum wage form part of the group of essential workers who have helped keep our economy going through this Covid-19 pandemic. It is therefore completely unacceptable that they and other workers who are the lowest paid in this state would not be afforded decency and fairness by receiving an equitable increase in the minimum wage.”

Many businesses are under pressure too due to Covid-19 but this still doesn’t seem fair.

This week saw the Government reject NPHET’s advice for the first time following extraordinary drama early this week.

What changed between last Thursday’s media briefing when they said there was no need for any additional counties to go to Level 3, and Sunday evening when their letter called on the Government to bring the entire country to Level 5?

On Sunday NPHET had the latest data for the number of admissions to ICU and hospitalisations for the previous week. Where that had previously stood at a six per cent rise, that figure jumped to 50 per cent by last Sunday - a very alarming increase according to NPHET.

They also hadn’t seen a reduction in cases in Dublin and Donegal - which have been at Level 3 for a number of weeks - that they wanted to see.

CUH has had to cancel some elective surgeries due to capacity. There are 33 outbreaks in nursing homes too which is a huge worry.

We don’t know if it was the right decision to go to Level 3 or Level 5 or neither, but this was the Government’s biggest call so far.

Let’s hope they got it right.

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