Nearly a quarter of a million workers in Northern Ireland are paid below the real living wage of £9.50 per hour

24 Nov 2020

1 in 4 workers in Northern Ireland paid below £9.50 per hour

Nearly a quarter of a million workers in Northern Ireland are paid below the real living wage of £9.50 per hour. This equates to 1 in 4 workers earning poverty pay in Northern Ireland where clearly work does not pay.

Commenting on a new collection of data compiled by the Nevin Economic Research Institute, ICTU Assistant General Secretary Owen Reidy commented:

“Our colleagues from the NERI have published data which exposes in quite a graphic way how low pay is a problem in Northern Ireland. 80% of hospitality, 45% of retail, 26% of manufacturing and 30% of construction workers are all paid below the real living wage of £9.50 an hour.

“We need to be clear about this. This problem has not been caused by the pandemic, it has been with us for some time, and the pandemic has simply and starkly exposed it and exacerbated it.

“This must be a long overdue wake up call for the Northern Ireland Executive to develop a short, medium and long term strategy to address this blight on our economy, and more accurately on our people.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

“When you look at the data it highlights more concerning information. 70% of our young adults earn below £9.50 per hour and 1 in 3 of all 22-29 year olds earn below this real living wage.

“Women and part time workers are disproportionately affected also.

“Precarious work is unfortunately alive and well in Northern Ireland. The trade union movement have raised this matter directly with the Executive Office and the Department of the Economy with no response and we need urgent proactive action now.

“Something must be done urgently about this and there are many things that could be done. One thing that could be prioritised is legislating for something that both governments and the 5 parties that form the Executive have already signed up to and that is implementing an important section of the New Decade New Approach agreement. Page 44 of that Agreement under workers’ rights states:

“There will be an enhanced focus within the PfG on creating good jobs and protecting workers rights. The parties agree that access to good jobs, where workers have a voice that provides a level of autonomy, a decent income, security of tenure, satisfying work in the right quantities and decent working conditions should be integral to public policy given how this contributes to better health and wellbeing by tackling inequalities, building self-efficacy and combating poverty.”

“These words must be transformed into reality. There is much debate about the need to support business at this time. On the other side of the labour market, however, workers are in need of radical support. All workers should judge their government in how they engage with the trade union movement and seek to address this matter as a priority issue. To fail to do so would be unforgiveable and unacceptable.”