Northern Ireland has significantly higher levels of low pay than any other UK region and low pay is of most concern in sectors of the economy that are growing. This level of low pay is a serious threat to the domestic economy and any chance of recovery.
That is one of the main findings of a research report prepared by the The Nevin Economic Research Institute which also finds that 17% of workers are officially classified as low paid (115,000) that 9% (61,000) earn only the National Minimum Wage or less and that 1 in 4 Northern Ireland workers do not earn enough for a decent standard of living.
The National Minimum Wage (currently £6.31 per hour) is not enough to live on. Many working families have to rely on tax credits and other benefits to compensate for low pay.Despite the introduction of a new ‘Living Wage’ scheme in England, Scotland and Wales the Assembly in Northern Ireland has made no moves in that direction.
Glasgow Council is one of many local government authorities to have introduced the £7.65 living wage for all its employees.
An hourly Living Wage of at £7.65 in Northern Ireland would help thousands of local people to start moving away from the poverty trap, reduce the cost of top-up benefits, put more money into the local economy and help encourage people back into work.
There are around 170,000 working people in Northern Ireland who receive less than that.
The Workers Party hascalled on the Finance Minister to introduce legislation at the Assembly to allow all local authorities and public sector organisations here to pay their employees the Living Wage rate.We are also demanding that a Living Wage clause is written in to all contracts with private sector companies delivering public projects.
Steps to introduce a Living Wage in Northern Ireland should be quickly followed by a planned programme to address poverty and the working poor using state and public assets to deliver economic change in Northern Ireland. Cuts and austerity are not the answer.