Work must pay: McDonald challenges Tánaiste on extent of low paid employment

Speaking at Leaders’ Questions today, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD raised the report from Social Justice Ireland which highlights the issue of the more than 100,000 workers living in poverty.

The Dublin Central TD called on the government to make tax credits refundable and to introduce a living wage.

Teachta McDonald said:

“The research shows that 780,000 are living below the poverty line. The figure that stands-out is that more than 100,000 of these people have jobs but cannot make a living wage.

“The reality, despite the economic recovery, is that the group best described as the ‘barely getting-by class’ has continued to grow since 2009.

“These are people who get up early in the morning, Tánaiste. They work hard. They want to provide for their families. They have aspirations. However, they cannot plan for the future.

“How could they when they cannot make ends meet in the here and now? The casualisation of work – precarious employment and zero hour contracts – is a real problem. Low pay – especially taken in the context of the cost of living – is a real problem.

“Workers being paid poverty wages in insecure employment must somehow find the money to pay extortionate rents, grossly inflated insurance prices and crushing childcare costs. Each Bill that comes through the letter box lands with the weight of sledgehammer.

“Many of these workers live with a constant sense of vulnerability. They fear that one unexpected occurrence – the car breaking down or a family member getting sick – will throw the train off the tracks and into chaos.

“It is a damning indictment of the policies of this government, and indeed previous administrations that having a job is no longer a guarantee of living free of poverty.

“The social contract is clearly broken.  It is your duty to fix it. Tánaiste, have you read the report from Social Justice Ireland?

“It makes a number of recommendations on how best to reduce poverty. These include making tax credits refundable and the introduction of a living wage. Will your government implement these recommendations to ensure that all workers can afford a decent standard of living?”