SIPTU General Secretary, Joe Cunningham, has told his union’s Biennial Delegate Conference that it will pursue wage increases which offset the impact on workers of an inflation rate which is expected to reach heights not seen since the 1980s. Addressing delegates attending the conference in Sligo, Cunningham said; “The immediate issue we face is the impact on living standards from rising inflation. This will not be temporary. The ESRI recently projected that inflation would rise by nearly 12% over this year and next. But it admitted this could be an under-estimate. If this happens, it will be the largest two-year inflation growth since the 1980s. “This will be a test of social solidarity. We need to work together if we are to see out this crisis. But we are making this clear: we will pursue wage claims to assist workers and their families to meet this crisis. We will be particularly mindful of low-and average-income earners as inflation hits them harder. We will not accept the idea that wage increases will fuel further inflation.   “Inflation is being driven by energy costs and transport fuel. Wage increases will not push them higher because they are set by global markets outside the State. Over the last year inflation rose by 5½%.  Energy and petrol costs rose by 30%.”   He added: “However, we need further measures to help people. The Tánaiste has called for a ‘comprehensive anti-inflation strategy’. We are calling on the Government to sit down with the trade union movement to work out these proposals as a matter of urgency. No strategy can be comprehensive if it ignores the ideas and experience of a movement that represents hundreds of thousands of workers.” Cunningham also called for action on the issue of low pay in Ireland. He said: “Coming out of this pandemic, people are demanding a better deal in work. Nowhere is this more urgent than the issue of low pay. Ireland is a low-paid economy – one of the worst in the EU – with hundreds of thousands working on precarious contracts. This is not new. Jim Larkin worked and organised among people who were low-paid and worked in precarious conditions. Low pay is historical and endemic.” More than 350 delegates are attending the SIPTU Biennial Delegate Conference in the Clayton Hotel in Sligo from Monday (28th March) until Thursday (31st March) to debate and discuss motions on improving the lives of workers in Ireland. Joe Cunningham Speech BDC2022