Belfast Telegraph

Call to protect low-wage workers

The head of one of the country's biggest unions has called for the minimum wage and low-paid workers' salaries to remain untouched in the drive to secure 15 billion euro in savings.

Jack O'Connor, general president of Siptu, said imposing cuts on vulnerable workers is an agenda peddled by the elite of society who benefited most from the boom.

"They do not offer any meaningful contribution to the resolution of the economic crisis," the trade union leader said.

Speculation is growing that social welfare will be cut, the minimum wage reduced, new taxes introduced and existing taxes increased as the Government strives to dramatically reduce the cost of running the country and pay for a bank bailout.

Ireland's minimum wage of 8.65 euro - the second highest in Europe - is reportedly in the firing line.

Mr O'Connor said calls to reduce low-paid workers' salaries were "echoing the agenda of that element that floats at the top of society, who were cheer leaders for the property bubble and who benefited most from it".

The Siptu chief, who is also president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said the elite were also behind ill-conceived policies that aggravated the downturn over the past two years.

"Now they want to restructure the social architecture of Ireland, which is already one of the most unequal countries in the world, to impose a new, more brutal form of tooth and claw capitalism," he said.

"Brazenly, they are exploiting the weakened position of the Government to oblige the most vulnerable in society, and middle and lower-income families, to shoulder the burden of adjustment while they escape scot free.

"According to their gospel, the profligacy of the rich can only be redeemed through the crucifixion of the poor."

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