A 20p hike in the minimum wage for those over 21 has been described as miserly by leading trade union, Unite.
Jimmy Kelly, Unite’s Ireland Secretary, said: “An increase of 20 pence in the National Minimum Wage for those aged twenty-one and over, from £6.50 to £6.70, is completely inadequate to meet the real needs of working households. Unite is calling for the National Minimum Wage to be increased to the current Living Wage rate determined by the independent Living Wage Foundation – currently set at £7.85 an hour.
“The increase to the minimum wage comes into effect six months ahead of the ‘phony’ Tory ‘national living wage’ which will raise the hourly pay for workers aged twenty-five and above to £7.20 an hour. However, at the same time NI households are already losing almost an average of a thousand pounds a year through brutal tax credits cuts – with many low-paid households losing much more than this average.
“Analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies indicates that the Tory ‘sham’ national living wage rate will only compensate working households for 13 per cent of the loss associated with the cuts to tax credits.
“Average pay in Northern Ireland is one of the lowest in Western Europe reflecting the historic legacy of underinvestment and our falling productivity. Northern Ireland needs a pay rise – not just to raise workers out of poverty pay but to stimulate demand and encourage higher rates of investment.
“Unite is particularly concerned about some employers who seek to regionalise the Living Wage paying workers here less. The UK Living Wage is a national rate applicable for all regions outside London, which has its own unique circumstances. There can be no justification for employers like Lidl who seek to pay Northern Ireland workers less than they are paid in England, Scotland or Wales. Unite will campaign to overturn such discrimination”, Mr Kelly concluded.