Congress says the solution to underpaid workers is unionised workplaces

16 Feb 2017

NIC ICTU reaction to 'NI businesses 'named and shamed' for underpaying staff'

Speaking after the revelation that 17 businesses in Northern Ireland have been rightly named and shamed for underpaying workers, ICTU Assistant General Secretary Owen Reidy said:

"This is a walk of shame for those who have been caught denying workers out of their entitlement to a pay rate which barely covers the basics of life. Let us be clear, the Minimum Wage is far below what we or most experts would consider a Living Wage.

“We also have to ask how widespread is this practice, especially in NI where there are so many small and micro-businesses? The resources of the HMRC inspectorate are tiny, especially compared to the tabloid-driven fuss associated with benefits fraud. This is white-collar crime, and the victims are vulnerable and poor.

“NIC-ICTU supports Francis O’Grady of the TUC’s call for… ‘prosecutions and higher fines for the most serious offenders, especially those who deliberately flout the law.’

“Nor are we solely talking about micro businesses. One of the offenders in England is Debenhams. In Northern Ireland, the most significant law-breaker is an employment agency in Portadown which cheated 143 workers out of £26,418. They pleaded ignorance of the law, an excuse that trade unions and our own ICTU Migrant Workers Support Unit hear each week from dozens and dozens of employers.

“What all of these places have in common is no trade union about the place. A workplace with a union rep who is informed about the law and has a professional working relationship with their managers is one that avoids such breaches in the law. We need a wider workplace culture that sees collective bargaining as fair for all workers and for good employers, against slum bosses who cheat their staff and their competitors."