A Cork TD has accused the Government of “selling out the low paid”, as a new report shows nearly a third of households are living in energy poverty.
Socialist Party TD Mick Barry is one of those behind what's expected to be a large protest in Cork city on the cost of living today.
Demonstrators are due to part in rallies on the issue across the country.
Mr Barry said Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and the Government were selling out the low paid with their new living wage proposals, adding that the proposals will mean no increase in the minimum wage until next year.
The Cork North Central TD was commenting on the Government’s plans to phase in a living wage over the next four years, under proposals to scrap the minimum wage by 2026.
Plans announced by Mr Varadkar would see the living wage labelled as 60% of the median wage in any given year, with the minimum wage rising each year until it matches the living wage.
Mr Barry said that it was “obscene” to ask low-paid workers to wait four years for the living wage rate to be mandatory.
He said the living wage rates for the next four years are being set too low in the context of the current cost-of-living crisis.
Mr Barry’s comments come as a new report has shown that nearly a third of Irish households are living in energy poverty, which is defined as spending over a tenth of their disposable income on energy.
The study, by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), shows households are paying on average €21 more a week for energy, rising to €38 more when motor fuels are included.
The ESRI figures, which covered energy price inflation between January 2021 and April 2022, show a record 29%, or 550,000 households, are now spending over one-tenth of their disposable income on energy, the threshold for energy poverty.
Mr Barry said the Government needs to explain why the living wage was set at €12.90 last year and it was now proposing that it be set at €12.17, in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.
He also called for the minimum wage to be increased to €15 an hour.
Reacting to a claim by Mr Varadkar that most minimum wage earners were not the main breadwinner in their homes, Mr Barry said he did not think those on the minimum wage would too impressed.
“I think there’s something a little bit stomach-churning about a Government politician on a basic of €195,000 per annum lecturing people on not much more than one-tenth of that sum about why they need to make do,” said Mr Barry.
He added that cost-of-living protests will be held across the country today.
The Cork protest will take place on Patrick Street at 2pm, with other rallies in Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Sligo.