“Realistic” review needed for Minimum wage – Minister

February 15, 2009

The Minister for Labour Affairs Billy Kelleher has stated that the minimum wage could become a barrier to employment and any review of it must be ‘realistic‘. The Minister stated that the Irish minimum wage is the second highest in Europe and he said the changed economic environment needs to be taken into account.

The Minister stated that he would be reluctant to give his personal views but a rate that is fair and equitable is needed. He said the issue is now before the Labour Court and he said a constant review of the rate is taking place. The current rate is €8.65.

The Minister stated that employers and employees will be the ones that decide the rate into the future. Employers are being officially warned not to take advantage of staff during the current economic downturn. The warning comes from the National Employment Rights Agency, which has published its annual report for 2008.

The agency recovered more than €3m in wages due to workers who had been underpaid by employers. The number of calls, interviews and inspections handled by the agency increased by 96% last year. The problem of staff not being paid the minimum wage extends beyond foreign nationals, according to the Director of NERA Ger Deering. The problem is not just one for migrant workers; the catering and security sectors were targeted during 2008.

Mr Deering said today the problem is evident across many sectors and added that there are significant breaches when it comes to the minimum wage and the keeping of records.