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Ireland Sinn Fein condemns employers for witholding pay rise for cleaners

SINN Fein has blasted Irish employers for failing to honour a €0.4-(35p)-an-hour pay rise for cleaners, saying it “beggars belief” that companies are withholding the payment during the coronavirus pandemic.

Senator Paul Gavan, the party’s spokesman on workers’ rights, said: “We have contract cleaners putting their lives on the line in hospitals throughout the country who get paid just €10.80 (£9.50) an hour.

He urged employers to abide by their agreement with the cleaners’ union Siptu.

Siptu has negotiated with employers represented by the Irish Contract Cleaners Association (ICCA) since 2015. It agrees minimum pay standards through legally binding employment regulation orders (ERO).

The latest agreement was made in January but was awaiting formal ratification from the Labour Court when the Covid-19 crisis took hold, delaying its formal approval.

The draft ERO would have seen the pay of contract cleaners who provide services to workplaces including hospitals rise from €10.80 to €11.20 (£9.90) an hour on March 1.

But the ICCA said that it is now “asking to reopen negotiations around the current pay proposal for the contract-cleaning sector.” It claimed that the sector has been hit by the impact of coronavirus but denied that it was seeking to drop the pay rise.

The ICCA said that it wanted to discuss the timing of the payment and remained “committed” to working with trade unions.

Siptu organiser Teresa Hannick said: “Really, it’s unbelievable. We’re talking about essential workers at this stage. Most of these cleaners are in hospitals and healthcare facilities, and even in transport.

“People are going out clapping for front-line workers and cleaners, and we have a group of employers now saying: ‘We can’t afford to pay an increase’.”

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