This article appeared in Connacht Tribune on May 13 2021 By Dara Bradley
A charitable Galway employer has rewarded staff with a generous pay-rise – by bumping up their weekly wages to a Living Wage because ‘it’s the right thing to do’.
Most workers at McD’s, a garden and home store, in Loughrea and Galway City, experienced bigger pay-packets last week after owner Sean McDonald fulfilled a long-time business ambition. Instead of paying the national minimum wage, all staff over 18 years of age now get a Living Wage of €12.30 per hour or more.
The Living Wage is defined by charities such as Saint Vincent de Paul and trade unions such as SIPTU as a level of pay that makes possible a “minimum acceptable standard of living”. It is higher than the legal requirement, which is the national minimum wage of €10.20 per hour.
All 55 staff at McD’s in The Green Loughrea and Galway Crystal on the Dublin Road now receives at a minimum of €12.30 per hour. Many of them are paid more having worked their way up the ladder. Staff who are on 20-hour weeks, for example, are now earning €2 more per hour, or an extra €40 every week.
Owner Seán McDonald explained that there were several benefits to introducing a Living Wage but his primary motivating factor was, ‘it’s the right thing to do’. “Retail is not classified as being the biggest of payers, but I just think if you can do it, you should do it. We’ve introduced a Living Wage. That was one of my goals when I set up my business. Now that’s probably my biggest single achievement in business.
“It’s something I always had an ambition to do. Down through the years, it’s up and down. You struggle, you do well, you struggle, you do well. You never fully have a right time to make the decision to do it but this year I just decided it was the time,” he said.
McD’s celebrates twelve years in business this Friday, May 14. It started as a small corner shop in Loughrea before it moved two years later to its current base at The Green. At Christmas 2019 it opened a pop-up store at Galway Crystal in the city and has since signed a long-term lease on that premises, with plans to expand the garden centre there even further. Its webshop caters for online deliveries to all 32 counties and Sean McDonald has plans to expand the brand nationwide.
“We’re here to stay, we’re here for the long term,” he said. Mr McDonald said he wanted to achieve the Living Wage for staff before they expand further. “There was a good buzz about the place when I told them it was going to happen,” he joked. “It was always one of my goals. There’s a difference between the legal requirement, which is the minimum wage, and what you could call the moral obligation, and that’s the living wage.
“Even in your private life, there will be times when you can’t afford to do something but you do it anyway because you’ve always wanted to do something. “Can we afford it? We still have to keep our costs under control but the cost factor wasn’t the motivating factor for me. It was the right time to do it.
“For me, the business is on a sound financial footing. When you’re struggling, it could have serious consequences, but for me, we’re in a good sound place,” he said.
McD’s has good staff retention – three of the five original workers are still working for him twelve years on – but the new pay rates should help with retention. And it will help with recruiting staff as the company expands.
“There are all sorts of advantages for doing it but the primary reason is I just think it’s the right thing to do, to be honest. I can’t put much more emphasis on saying am I doing it for X, Y and Z reasons. It’s just right. That sums it up.
“The staff will see the benefit of it. There are other benefits of it but ultimately it’s just the right thing to do,” he said.
Mr McDonald said the ability to pay the Living Wage has come from three years of solid performances, including the expansion to Galway City. “There are other people in other industries struggling. The Living Wage is something I’ve been trying to do for a number of years. The business has been on an upward trajectory for two to three years.
“We’ve had a number of successful Christmases. We’ve got Galway Crystal, and the success of that has helped me to do this. I thank my lucky stars that I’m in an industry where I’m able to survive and push ahead,” he said.