A grouping of trade unions urged the government on Tuesday to address potential loopholes in the calculation of the national minimum wage, while also calling for a reduction on VAT on essential goods and services amid the inflationary crunch.

In a resolution, the federation of independent trade unions (Poaso) called on the labour minister to “immediately correct the weakness in determining the minimum hourly wage via an agreement concerning all working hours, as these derive from existing collective agreements…”

The federation further asked the minister to convene the Labour Advisory Council to hammer out an arrangement for the mechanism that will periodically review the national minimum wage. In addition, they want the government to issue regulations governing the minimum earnings of workers aged under 18, to prevent their exploitation by employers under the pretext of temporary work.

At the end of August, and following talks with stakeholders, the cabinet set the monthly minimum wage at €940 – to be implemented at the start of the new year.

But one outstanding issue related to the number of maximum weekly hours linked to the minimum wage.

At the time trade unions expressed concerns over the lack of clarity and that fudging work hours could lead to some employers exploiting some within the labour force.

Poaso also appealed to the labour minister to mediate in order to reach an agreement on the cost of living allowance (CoLA) before the year closes out.

The CoLA rate for 2023 has yet to be finalised. The allowance is paid out once a year, in January.

The federation said the revised CoLA rate should factor in inflation which “has come about as a result of the [price] increases foisted by the business world globally.”

The unions additionally urged the finance minister to slash VAT on essential goods and services, providing relief to people hit by the rising cost of living.

Goods and services like water, electricity and heating fuel should be regarded as absolutely essential, and be subject to VAT of just 5 per cent.