Lidl, which has 143 stores around the country, is to become the first big employer here to commit to paying the Living Wage of €11.50 an hour. 

The discount retailer said the move will benefit the 20% of its staff currently earning below this rate as all its other staff already earn more than €11.50 an hour.

About 700 of the company's 3,800 staff will benefit from the move. 

Lidl said the measure will be introduced from 1 November, adding that the new rate is 30% higher than the current minimum wage of €8.65. 

The Living Wage is an independently assessed and measured rate of income considered necessary to have a socially acceptable standard of living.

A similar commitment is also being made to workers in Lidl Northern Ireland, using the sterling benchmarked level. 

"We are delighted to be the first major nationwide employer to champion the Living Wage in Ireland," commented John Paul Scally, Managing Director at Lidl Ireland.

"Already 80% of our team earn in excess of the living wage, however it is important for us to ensure that those whose hourly pay falls below €11.50 benefit from a substantial increase. This would bring them to a level that is more reflective of enjoying a better standard of living," he added. 

"As our economic recovery continues, this is the right time for employers to follow the lead of Lidl, and others, and commit to sharing the benefits of the recovery with their staff through paying a Living Wage," commented Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton.

Irish Farmers' Association president Eddie Downey, however, said the pay rise for Lidl staff would ring hollow in the minds of farmers and suppliers to supermarkets.

He warned aggressive pricing by retailers leaves small, family-run vegetable producers under relentless pressure to provide more for less and struggling to make any profit.

Mr Downey said: "Everyone was entitled to a living wage, but not at the expense of someone else in the supply chain. Would Lidl like to tell its customers what they are going to do to ensure that farmers and others supplying them will get a living wage?"