Vernon Coaker MP and Irish Congress of Trade Unions in joint call for a living wage in Northern Ireland

8 Nov 2012

Labour's Shadow Secretary of State, Vernon Coaker MP, on a visit to Belfast today, pledged his commitment to campaigning for a living wage in Northern Ireland. In a joint call with the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, he said:

"Almost a 1 in 4 workers in Northern Ireland - 170,000 people - earn less than the living wage of £7.20. As Ed Miliband said earlier this week, they are people who get up early this morning, spend hours getting to work and put in all the effort they can, but who often don't get paid enough to look after their families, to heat their homes, feed their kids, care for their elderly relatives and plan for the future.

"In our last manifesto, Labour committed to paying a living wage in government departments. That includes the Northern Ireland Office. And Labour will look at ways to see if we can ensure companies who get government contracts pay their workers a living wage too.

"I am calling on everyone to get behind the campaign for a living wage in Northern Ireland. Politicians, businesses, trade unions, councils, and voluntary groups all benefit when people are valued and given respect, dignity and fair pay."

Peter Bunting, Assistant General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which represents over 250,000 people in 36 trade unions in Northern Ireland, said:

"I welcome Vernon and Labour's support for the living wage.

"A recent report on the living wage across the UK shows that Northern Ireland has most people who are in work but getting paid below a living wage, meaning that they can't feed and clothe themselves and their family with decency and dignity. This ought to be of urgent concern to the Northern Ireland Executive, as low wages mean smaller shopping budgets, endangering the jobs of other badly-paid workers in retail and services.

"A proper living wage can help break this cycle of poverty, and the public sector can take the lead in making work pay."

Notes for editors:

A KPMG report issued on 29th October 2012 stated that 24% or 170,000 of those working in Northern Ireland are paid less than the living wage.