Thursday, 24 February 2005
National Minimum Wage.
Question 80: To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he intends to sanction the increase in the national minimum wage recommended by the Labour Court; when a decision on the matter will be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6152/05]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 10 and 80 together.
The parties to the Mid-Term Review of Part Two of Sustaining Progress — Pay and the Workplace agreed to request the Labour Court to review the national minimum wage and to make a recommendation to the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in accordance with the National Minimum Wage Act 2000, to apply with effect from 1 May 2005. In accordance with this commitment, the Labour Court has undertaken a review of the national minimum wage. Arising from this review, on 1 February 2005 the Labour Court recommended that the minimum wage be increased to €7.65 with effect from 1 May 2005. The national minimum wage legislation, allows a three-month period for my consideration of the Labour Court recommendation.
The Labour Court did not recommend any changes to the structure of the sub-minimum rates of the minimum wage nor is any currently proposed. However, any changes to the minimum wage, which may arise from this current review, would also impact on the sub-minimum rates as these are expressed in legislation as percentage rates of the national minimum wage. Therefore, if an increase to the minimum wage should become effective from 1 May, the sub-minimum rates would increase from that date also.
Does the Minister of State agree it would be more appropriate to adjust sub-minimum rates of pay in the context of national pay talks than to continue to require people to bring cases to the Labour Court? We need to ensure this country remains competitive, for example by ensuring that people receive appropriate levels of pay. Such issues should be resolved during the new pay round. Does the Minister of State agree it would be more appropriate to approach the matter in that context, rather then involving the machinery of the Labour Court?
I would like to ask the Minister of State about the minimum wage, which is the subject of Question No. 80. It was recently disclosed that some people working on the Dublin Port tunnel are being paid just half the minimum wage. Some 40 workers, who are involved in dangerous work on the tunnel, which is a major project, are being paid just €7 or €8 per hour. I have great concerns in that regard, especially as other workers involved in the same project are being paid twice that amount. Is the Minister of State aware of this problem? Will he do something about it?
Deputy Howlin is correct. We have dealt with the issue raised by Deputy Finian McGrath in considerable detail already. I remind Deputy Hogan that the national minimum wage is set under the terms of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000. I do not propose to introduce legislation to change its existing legislative basis. I intend to ask the ESRI to conduct an assessment of the effect the current proposal would have on competitiveness.