The Labour Party is upping the ante on Fine Gael in the battle over low-paid voters by pledging to increase the minimum wage by more than €2 per hour if re-elected to Government.
The move, aimed at shoring up support among working class voters, puts Labour on a direct collision course with Fine Gael - as the major coalition party believes drastic increases in the minimum wage will negatively impact on small businesses.
Labour's election manifesto will pledge to ensure every worker in the country earns at least €11.30 per hour by the end of the next Dail term.
The announcement follows Fine Gael's plan to offer working parents welfare top-ups to ensure they earn at least €11.75 per hour.
However, Labour Business and Employment Minister Ged Nash rubbished Fine Gael's proposal yesterday, saying there is "no dignity" in giving welfare top-ups to low-paid workers.
Mr Nash also insisted Fine Gael's 'working family payment', which would see the State pay parents earning the minimum wage an extra €100 per week, will only benefit major corporations paying inadequate wages.
"If a situation was to emerge where there would be permanent top-ups on salaries for people in low-paid jobs then there would be little incentive for employers to pay anybody above the rate of the national minimum wage," Mr Nash said.
The minister also said Labour wants to pay all public sector workers the 'Living Wage' of €11.50 as part of a move to encourage businesses to follow the State's example.
However, he insisted there will be no "Bertie Ahern-style bonanza" for the public sector, and said Labour will not be pushing to increase politician's salaries.
The minster said the cornerstone of Labour's election manifesto will be a promise to link the minimum wage to 60pc of the national median wage.
A similar proposal was announced when the minimum wage was first introduced in Ireland in 2000, but successive Governments never implemented the measure.
The median hourly wage stands at around €18.80, and Labour plans to incrementally increase the minimum wage to €11.30 if re-elected.
The Low Pay Commission, which was established by Mr Nash, will be tasked with examining the potential to link the minimum and median wage based on economic conditions.