As well as telling you the wind direction a weathercock is a word used for those who change their minds or opinions often, as often as the weather changes. So what a surprise for us to see and hear newly elected Labour leader, Brendan Howlin TD, introducing an amendment to a Bill in the Dáil that read;
That Dáil Éireann: affirms that, as economic conditions continue to improve, it will stand up for working people and ensure that employees secure a fair share of growing national prosperity;
accordingly calls for a programme of incremental increases to the national minimum wage until it is pegged at 60% of median earnings, and for a living wage of €11.50 per hour to be adopted throughout the public sector;…
…- promoting employment standards and the living wage in public procurement;
The lesser spotted weathercock
We scratched our collective heads here at ISME because we’re sure that Brendan Howlin was the same Minister who just three months ago was trying to cut the cost of the public service? Surely, now in opposition, he’s hardly gone over the dark side, seeking populist issues with which to make himself and his party popular again, finding ways of spending money he knows the State still doesn’t have?
A chill wind
There’s something even more sinister about this motion. Here’s a former national school teacher and trade union official, who has no idea of the pressures of running a small business, wanting to tie his ‘living wage’ fantasy to State public procurement. So a State employee (Howlin) wants to use (mostly private sector) taxpayers’ money to pay more to those State employees. Surely he’s not trying to buy votes from his former supporters? Politicians don’t do embarrassment.
Tender prices to blow up
If this daft motion ever sees the light of day the Law of Unforeseen Consequences will kick in. The 200,000 smaller businesses who can’t afford to pay the ‘fantasy wage’, those whose views ISME best represents, won’t be allowed to bid for public contracts. Bigger firms will win the State contracts and without competition from SMEs, tender prices will rise significantly. But Deputy Howlin doesn’t care about that.
A sustainable wage, not a fantasy wage
Just as in the private sector if the public sector wants more money it has to be paid for by extra productivity. Open up libraries on weekends. Don’t close museums on Mondays. Use hospitals fully on weekends. Run urban public transport through the night. There are so many ways the public sector could be more productive and that is the only way to make sure we can pay a ‘sustainable wage’ to all.