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Stop the Squeeze on Low-Paid Workers Employers groups say that wage rates for workers at the lower end of the income spectrum are too high by international standards and are a major obstacle to job creation. This is why they pushed for the €1 per hour reduction of the National Minimum Wage and are calling for the abolition of Joint Labour Committees and Employment Regulation Orders which set wage rates for hairdressers, grocery and hospitality workers. However the facts show that Irish wage rates for those on lower incomes are not too high. In the wholesale and retail sectors Irish wages are 16.1% behind the average of the EU core countries and when living costs are taken into account, Ireland is nearly 18% behind the EU core countries. Clearly then there is no ‘competitiveness’ case for cutting the wages of lower paid Irish workers. Indeed, such wage cuts – along with cuts to welfare payments and increasing prices – are self-defeating for Ireland because people on lower and middle incomes spend most of their hard-earned here in Ireland. The net result of such income cuts is the domestic economy slides even further into the spiral of decline. So don’t let the employers put the squeeze on lower-paid workers – instead let’s make sure that the Government continues to look after those on lower incomes by protecting the Joint Labour Committees and Employment Regulation Orders.

The history of May Day The modern celebration of May Day evolved from the campaign by the Knights of Labour for the eight-hour day in the United States and Canada in the mid-1880s. At that time, workers were being forced to work anywhere from 10 to 14 hours per day. On May 1st, 1886, national strikes took place in both countries involving over 250,000 workers in support of this campaign, however, in Chicago; police attacked and killed six striking workers. The next day, at a demonstration against this police brutality in the city’s Haymarket Square, a bomb exploded among the police cordon killing eight officers. Eight striking trade unionists were arrested and tried for murder. The trial focused as much on their politics as it did on the allegation of murder and four were eventually convicted and executed in November 1887. They became known as the Haymarket Martyrs. Shortly afterwards, May 1st or May Day, was declared to be International Workers’ Day when the International Working Men’s Association (the First International) designated the day as a holiday to commemorate the Haymarket Martyrs. In Ireland, the first Monday of May was declared a Bank Holiday by the then Minister for Public Enterprise, Ruairi Quinn TD, in 1994, in honour of May Day and those people who have campaigned and continue to campaign for workers’ rights as well as progressive, economic, social and political change.

May Day 2011  

Stop the Squeeze on Low-Paid Workers

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