THE national statutory minimum wage will be cut by €1 from next Tuesday but employers cannot automatically pass the reduction on to people who are currently being paid €8.65 an hour. That’s the message from Paul
Woulfe of the Ennis Citizen’s Information Centre.
Speaking to The Clare Champion on Tuesday, Mr Woulfe said, “There is an awful lot of concern about this. From the first of February, the minimum wage is going down to €7.65 but the thing is, this reduced rate does not apply to existing employees.”
He said that if an employer tries to cut pay without agreement, they may be in breach of legislation. “Neither party can unilaterally change the terms and conditions of the contract and every worker has a contract, whether it is written or implied, and consent is required to change it. If there is not consent, the employer may be in breach of employment law.”
Mr Woulfe said if an employer moves unilaterally to cut pay, a worker may bring an action to a Rights Commissioner or the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA).
He said the Citizen’s Information Service had been inundated with contacts from the public since the start of 2011.
“This month we have had an awful lot of queries. There have been nearly 1,000. They would have been about being put on short time, reduction in wages and there would have been a substantial amount about the minimum wage,” he said.
Cathal Oakes, president of the Clare branch of St Vincent De Paul, said the cuts in social welfare, also announced in last year’s budget, were hitting hard.
He claimed the charity now requires significantly more money to keep going. “Locally, our expenditure has gone way up. In some cases it would have doubled since 2008.”
Mr Oakes said more people are giving their time to the organisation. “We have increased our number of volunteers and that does allow us to deal with more cases but that reaches a limit in terms of finance.”
He also said the charity have been lobbying for pay-as-you-go electricity charges to be introduced across the country, which St Vincent De Paul say would ease the burden of budgeting on many people.