President Michael D Higgins will today warn that soaring inflation is leading to a rise in the “working poor” as the cost of living soars while wages stagnate.
As The Irish Times reports, the President will tell the Siptu Biennial Conference in Sligo this morning that the prevalence of in-work poverty was a “consequence of unstable, precarious, low-paid and temporary jobs.
“Entering work does not, by definition, provide a sustainable route out of poverty owing to the widespread prevalence of low-paid jobs, flexible and zero-hours’ contracts and other innovations that are increasing the numbers who are now termed ‘precariats’.”
He will say low-paid, temporary and insecure jobs have created a new poverty trap, “one made all the more difficult to escape in the aftermath of the pandemic”.
“There is a danger that an ‘any-job-will-do’ mantra may dictate welfare and enterprise policy as countries struggle to cope with the political, economic and societal pressures that the pandemic is likely to bring in its wake.”
Mr Higgins will say trade unions have a key role to play in any reshaping of the working world in the aftermath of Covid-19.
In a speech that will also touch on the role of unions and their members in addressing issues such as the humanitarian crisis arising from the war in Ukraine, climate change and sectarianism, the President will highlight what he sees as the potential for an ongoing benefit from changed work practices widely adopted over the past two years.
He will argue unions have a central part to play in negotiating this new normal for workers.
“The pandemic has prompted a profound reassessment of how we work, where we work, even why we work, all of which has to come out of negotiation and in the design of which there must be a lead role for trade unions and their membership,” he will say.
“Covid-19 has demonstrated the effectiveness of remote working in appropriate circumstances and . . . survey after survey indicates that a blended form of remote and office-based working is the preference for the majority of workers as we emerge from the pandemic,” he will tell the conference.
The President will also cite the environmental benefits that can accrue to society as a whole, with much-reduced commuting and the related potential for financial benefits to workers themselves.