Lidl's decision to extend living wage plan welcomed by union bosses
Supermarket chain Lidl's decision to extend its living wage plan is a benchmark of decency, union bosses have declared.
The retailers' new staff and lowest paid employees on both sides of the border will be paid higher rates from next month - 11.50 euro in the Republic and £8.20 in Northern Ireland.
Unite's Ireland secretary Jimmy Kelly said the pay rise was a victory on two fronts.
"(It) is not only a victory for Unite members in Northern Ireland who were determined not to accept the company's discriminatory decision not to extend their Living Wage pledge to all workers in these islands," he said.
"It is also one more indication that the Living Wage of 11.50 euro set by the Living Wage Technical Group (in the Republic), of which Unite is a member, is now recognised as the benchmark of decency.
"The Living Wage is a powerful tool in the trade union movement's struggle against poverty pay and for decent work."
Lidl had been criticised last month for only offering the pay rise to staff in England, Scotland and Wales prompting threats of pickets outside its Northern Ireland stores to demand parity.
The increase will bring about wage hikes for a fifth of Lidl's 3,800 staff in the Republic and almost one third of its 700 Northern Ireland staff.
Unite said the move demonstrated the power of workers.
Regional officer Susan Fitzgerald said: " This victory has been won by workers joining Unite and getting organised as well as the strength of the wider solidarity expressed behind our #LidlFairPay campaign."
Protests planned in Belfast and Londonderry were being called off.
Unite called on other retailers to also adopt the living wage.
John Paul Scally, managing director, Lidl Ireland and Northern Ireland, said: "We are delighted to be the first major food retailer to commit to the Living Wage in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland's minimum wage is £6.70 while it is 8.65 euro in the Republic and is expected to be increased to 9.15 euro in January.
But the Republic's Living Wage Technical Group - experts from social justice organisations, trade unions such as Unite and other groups - calculated people in Ireland need 450 euro (£312) a week to have a decent standard of living - at least 11.50 euro an hour.
Irish Farmers' Association president Eddie Downey said the pay rise for Lidl staff would ring hollow in the minds of farmers and suppliers to supermarkets.
He warned aggressive pricing by retailers leaves small, family-run vegetable producers under relentless pressure to provide more for less and struggling to make any profit.
Mr Downey said: "Everyone was entitled to a living wage, but not at the expense of someone else in the supply chain. Would Lidl like to tell its customers what they are going to do to ensure that farmers and others supplying them will get a living wage?"