John Geoghegan.

Minimum wage should be €15 an hour says Mullingar businessman

The minimum wage should be increased to €15 an hour, a well known Mullingar businessman believes.

John Geoghegan, who is also the president of Mullingar Chamber of Commerce, told the Westmeath Examiner that the newly agreed minimum wage of €11.30, which is scheduled to be introduced at the start of next year, is too low.

“[Adopting] The living wage has to become part of the national conversation to create a new social contract for people in the services sector and other industries where many people are paid the minimum wage.

“Eleven thirty an hour is around €23,000 a year and it's very hard to survive on €23k a year. A lot of large retailers in the country are adopting a living wage of around €13 or €14 an hour. Paying staff €15 an hour would give them a standard of living they could live on.

“People on the minimum wage if they were able to get a little top up each year, it would make a huge difference to the way they live.”

The cost of living crisis has hit lower paid workers hardest, Mr Geoghegan says, and more needs to be done to make staying in work more attractive.

“The spread between minimum wage and the dole is not that big when you factor in all the other social welfare benefits that people can get. The people who decide to go to work for €11.30 an hour are the backbone of the economy. During Covid they kept the things going, such as shop workers, people who worked in nursing homes and care staff.

“People who are on lower wages have the same costs of living as the rest of us but with less resources,” he said.

The government announced this week that the Low Pay Commission has set an indicative National Living Wage for 2023 of €13.10 per hour. While it is a step in the right direction, Mr Geoghegan believes it's not enough for the 15 per cent of the workforce currently on the minimum wage.

If Ireland introduced a living wage of €15, it could help the wider economy as it would incentivise people not to leave the workforce, he says.

“It [the current minimum wage] is unfair by its very nature. If you look at the UK, it has lost around 1m workers since Covid. These jobs were at the bottom end of the market, which has been decimated. We need people to do these jobs.”