Government attack 200,000 low wage workers

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"They want to cut the wages of lowest paid workers, to boost the bosses profits", that was one workers reaction to todays announcement of an all out assault on the wages of low pay workers.  The mask is well and truly off, Fine Gael minister Richard Bruton revealed that workers across the retail grocery, hairdressing and security sector will have their wages, terms and conditions attacked. The government is anxious to row back agreements under the JLC (Joint Labour Committee) system which had set minmum rates of pay in the sectors and insured fixed rates of extra pay for Sunday work, anti social hours and overtime.

The bosses are delighted with the success of their lobbying for driving down wages and conditions for workers. They are attempting to spin the whole thing as an effort to save jobs, but given the already low rates of pay in these sectors it will only mean greater hardship for people already under severe pressure. The RTE headline got it right "Proposed pay cuts for 200,000 workers." It isn't often you can say RTE cut through the waffle and tell the truth. MANDATE who represent many workers in the sector have warned that these wage cuts will drive people into poverty.  This is a crucial juncture for unions in the sector.  If they fail to defend the wages of workers in this sector simple economic logic will lead to the loss of members both through people choosing to pack in what they may perceive as dead end jobs and people leaving the unions to save the few euro membership fees.

So far the unions response has been high on rhetoric. The Labour party has signed up to these wage cuts through the programme for government and will back them ultimately.  The battle lines are being drawn.

WORDS: James McBarron

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