The gap between high and low earners in Ireland is growing, and that the best solution to such inequality was the right of workers to organise in independent trade unions says SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, Greg Ennis.

Addressing industrial relations experts, politicians and business representatives in O’Reilly Hall at University College Dublin, Ennis outlined research showing that if inflation challenges and productivity gains are taken into account pay rises of above 5% are necessary in 2024, if wages are to be maintained at their current percentage of national income.

Ennis said: “Central Statistics Office data shows that Ireland has one of the highest levels of wage inequality in the EU. For the top 1% of earners, there was a 46% increase in wages in the ten years up to 2022, for the top 10% a 38% increase while for the other 90% of workers in the economy, there was only a 26% rise.

“The introduction of the established Living Wage, which stands at €14.80 for 2024, as the state minimum wage, which is just €12.70, is a matter of urgency.”

Ennis said he will be participating in the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) sub-group on the transposition of the EU Adequate Minimum Wage Directive. The Directive requires member States to promote collective bargaining coverage.

He called on the Government to legislate for the recommendations of a 2022 report by Professor Michael Doherty that encourages employers to engage with unions in collective bargaining.

Ennis added: “Any increase in collective bargaining coverage must be through workers being represented by independent trade unions. There is no place for ‘yellow’ trade unions or puppet staff associations that are in the control of the employer.”