The Irish restaurant industry contributes €2 billion to the Irish economy each year, yet the industry is struggling due to Sunday premium rates they are forced to pay workers.
Irish restaurants employ 64,000 people, one in four of tourism jobs, yet 85 per cent of licensed restaurants in Ireland would employ two more staff, yielding 4,000 new jobs, if Employment Regulation Orders imposed by the Joint Labour Committees were scrapped.
According to the Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI ) 37.2 per cent of restaurants surveyed close on Sunday due to the Sunday premium payments.
The RAI is now urging the Government to abolish the Catering Joint Labour Committee and to scrap the Sunday premiums payments.
The JLC sets minimum terms and conditions of employment in the catering sector above and beyond the national minimum wage, including premium payment for weekend and overtime work. An independent review of these wage rules is being conducted as part of the agreement with the EU and IMF.
According to Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the RAI, the economic situation in Ireland has changed dramatically but this has not been taken into consideration by the JLC system. “It is forcing restaurants, which are struggling to survive and in many cases operating at loss, to pay a premium over and above the national minimum wage,” explained Mr Cummins.
Irish restaurants pay 54 per cent higher wages than their counterparts in Spain and 23 per cent higher than the UK, according to the RAI. And Ireland is the most expensive country in the EU to run a restaurant. Ireland is the only country in Europe that pays a Sunday premium, meaning Irish restaurateurs pay the highest catering wage rate in Europe. With that in mind Irish food cost inputs are 24 per cent higher than the European average.
The RAI maintains that the national minimum wage should be the sole statutory minimum wage in Ireland to provide fairness for all employers and foster job creation. This would replace the array of legal wage rates established by the JLC process which imposes legally binding conditions of employment to which other economic sectors are not subject.