April 2.5% retail wage increase to go ahead

Secretary general of Mandate John Douglas: The retail workers’ trade union says it is prepared to negotiate with retailers in “genuine difficulty”
Secretary general of Mandate John Douglas: The retail workers’ trade union says it is prepared to negotiate with retailers in “genuine difficulty”

Trade associations call for emergency meeting with the Tánaiste to stop the second round of wage increases due this October



20 April 2009

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Representatives of retailers met with the JLC (Joint Labour Committee) this month to seek a deferral of the two outstanding wage increases due this year.

The awards, which are due by employment regulation order on 24 April and 24 October, were ratified by the Labour Court in January 2008.

Chief executive of the CSNA, Vincent Jennings said that unless there was a formal legal challenge the 24 April increase will go ahead. “Our sector which can ill-afford a 2.5% increase in additional wages is going to be one of the few sectors not being allowed to respond to the reality of the blood on the ground,” said Jennings.

Mandate secretary general John Douglas said that the increases are overdue. “The retail workers that are covered by the JLC are 18 months to two years behind the general sector…It would be totally inequitable to talk about deferring a pay agreement which is appropriate to two years ago, when it was due. If anything it should be brought forward,” he told ShelfLife.

Tara Buckley, director general RGDATA, has condemned the JLC’s decision as “lunacy”. In a subseuqent letter to the Tánaiste she outlined that the pay increases are no longer appropriate in the current climate, where retailers have suffered sales losses of 10%, and up to 30% in border areas, and will siginificant lead to job losses, particularly in small rural towns.

In response to this Douglas said: “I think the level of increases we’re talking about [are] reasonable. I don’t think they will have the impact of cutting jobs.” Although he did acknowledge that the situation facing businesses this year is “very serious” and that Mandate is prepared to negotiate with retailers “in genuine difficulty”.

However, the employment regulation order makes it an offence for any retailer to pay lower than the fixed rate, even if an employee is willing accept less. According to Tara Buckley, many retailers will have no alternative to letting staff go.

Retailers’ representatives will meet again with the JLC to put forward a proposal to defer any further pay increases this year, or possibly to seek a wage decrease, Vincent Jennings said. Meanwhile, RGDATA has asked for a meeting with the Tánaiste “as a matter of urgency” to discuss what legal intervention could be enacted in order to reverse the regulation order and prevent significant potential job lossess across the sector.



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