Unions call for support for workers affected by latest Covid restrictions

20 Nov 2020

Speaking after the announcement by the NI Executive, ICTU Assistant General Secretary Owen Reidy commented:

“Now that the NI Executive have made a definitive decision regarding additional regulations, coming into effect on the 27th November 2020, in an effort to stop the rise in Covid 19 infection, it is essential they urgently prioritise low paid workers.

“Retail is the largest single employment sector in Northern Ireland. Approximately 45% of all retail workers earn below the real living wage, therefore for many of these workers their furlough pay will take them below the national minimum wage.

“In hospitality the figure is more stark, with 80% of all workers earning below the real living wage. Therefore the majority of those workers face continuing to receive a furlough payment below the national minimum wage.

“Low pay is a problem in Northern Ireland. The pandemic did not create low pay, but its implications have exacerbated it. We also know that in both these sectors there are many workers who are involuntarily working part time hours and women and younger workers are disproportionately affected.

“It is therefore crucial that the Executive immediately take remedial action amidst the clamour for more support for business. We should prioritise workers’ pay and ensure that the lowest paid in our society are protected during this pandemic. It must also be clear that the scourge of low pay in Northern Ireland must be tackled in any serious plan to grow the economy as we seek to emerge from the pandemic over the coming period.

“Finally in order to put the chaotic nature of government which we have witnessed in recent weeks behind us, it is essential the NI Executive urgently develop a clear strategy for the next few months to lead our health service, our society and our economy, up to the time when we can have an extensive roll out of a vaccine. This requires the Executive to engage with trade unions and others and is essential to bring the population with us. The people of Northern Ireland deserve no less.”