STRAIGHT TALKING: Decent jobs and a living weekly wage

Thursday 17 December 2015
By John Douglas, Mandate General Secretary
THE RECENT announcement by Musgraves/SuperValu of the closure of their stores in Clonmel and Carlow was a hammer blow for the 100 plus Mandate members and their families employed in these stores with the announcement coming as it did in the mouth of Christmas.
Mandate officials have met with all the members involved and they are understandably angry at the company’s decision to cease trading following heroic efforts by staff across the old “Superquinn chain of stores” to keep all locations viable and open.
Mandate will be meeting with the company in the coming weeks to negotiate a package of measures which will give our members real options for the future and every opportunity of rebuilding their lives post closure.
It is hard to overstate the importance of these 100 plus decent jobs to the local communities and economies of Clonmel and Carlow – both are towns which in the recent past have seen major closures of well-paid industrial employments.
The announcement of the closure of the SuperValu stores follows on from this year’s announced closures of Clerys and Boyers with the loss of almost 600 jobs in Dublin. Again, these were decent trade union jobs that provided workers with secure incomes and a decent standard of living and it is a devastating blow for the workers and their families.
Spearheading the battle
In the retail sector the fight for decent work and a living wage is a battle which Mandate and our members have spearheaded for the last number of year. We have made substantial progress on banded hour contracts, rosters and certainty of earnings, but much more needs to be achieved.
We believe that every worker in the retail sector is entitled to a decent job and a living weekly wage, which affords them the basics of life.
Too many retail employers are happy to create part-time flexible jobs with no certainty of hours or income. Too many retailers are prepared to grab media headlines – such as Aldi, Lidl and IKEA – by committing to paying the hourly rate of the Living Wage, i.e. €11.50 per hour.
While the hourly rate is important, the amount of hours and the scheduling of those hours is also vitally important to the quality of retail employment – what use is there in getting the hourly living wage if you are only scheduled for 10 to15 hours each week?
Mandate demands that all workers have a right to a decent weekly living wage. This means workers have access to full-time hours and decent scheduling. Recently the University of Limerick in a report to the Minister with responsibility for Enterprise and Employment, Ged Nash TD, called for legislation to curb the abuses of low hour contracts and scheduling.
Mandate has called for the recommendations in this report to be implemented as a matter of urgency.
Retailers in Ireland can afford to pay a decent living weekly wage – the reality is that they choose not to.
But we can all make a choice ourselves this Christmas. We can choose to support Fair Shops where workers are afforded their basic human right to be represented for collective bargaining purposes, thereby allowing workers access to decent, fair contracts of employment.
Let us make 2016 the year of decent work and a living weekly wage in retail and for all workers.
I wish all Mandate members and their families a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year. Thank you for standing up and fighting back during 2015…