The current rate is €9.15 an hour, while it is estimated a recommended “living wage” should be €11.70.
However, Mandate General Secretary John Douglas told delegates at the annual conference he would fight for members to get a “union rate” of €15.21 an hour.
Speaking in Wexford, he said: “We have a very serious problem in Ireland with, on the one hand, low pay and insecure work, and on the other hand, high costs of living.
“This is leading to many of the social problems we see today including the dramatic increase in homelessness across the country, along with high poverty and deprivation rates.
“If we are to tackle this crisis, it will mean winning significant pay increases for many low-paid workers.”
A survey conducted by Mandate in 2016 showed unionised workers in retail outlets earned 30% more than in non-union outlets.
Mandate said it has also won secure-hour contracts from a range of employers including Tesco , Marks & Spencer, Boots, Penneys and Supervalu, as well as lobbying for legislation to protect low-hour contract workers from exploitation.
Mr Douglas added: “The benefits our members enjoy in retail, including pay rates in excess of €15 per hour in some instances, were not handed to them freely by some benevolent employer. They were fought for and won through workers joining their trade union and getting active.
“Ireland is one of the most profitable countries in the world to be a major retail outlet, and we know Tesco Ireland make approximately €250million in profit every year while Dunnes Stores make €200million.
“There is absolutely no doubt many employers can afford to increase pay rates for their staff and give them secure-hour contracts.
“They simply choose not to, and instead prioritise shareholders and wealthy owners over their workers.
“There is only one real solution and that is for all retail and bar workers to get organised and prepared to stand up for better conditions of employment.”
Mandate represents 40,000 people in the retail and bar sectors, including workers in Tesco, Dunnes, Penneys and Supervalu.
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