Jobless black spot figures indict policies, says Unite

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A leading trade unionist says new figures reporting Londonderry as the worst unemployment blackspot in the whole of the United Kingdom indict the Northern Ireland Executive.

Figures produced by Thomson-Reuters in its August 2014 Income Date Services Pay Report reveal the three highest unemployment claimant rates in the UK in June were in Londonderry (8.1 per cent), Strabane (7.3 per cent) and Belfast (5.9 per cent).

Limavady was also in the worst ten with 5.6 per cent of working-age people forced to claim benefits.

Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly said the figures show the need for a new, effective industrial policy in Northern Ireland.

He said: “Of the top ten unemployment hotspots in the UK in June 2008 only one, Strabane, was in Northern Ireland. In June 2014, Northern Ireland local authorities filled four of the worst six positions with Derry, Strabane and Belfast topping the table in positions one, two and three in the list.

“Taken in tandem with the findings of recent research on the trend to lower wages and a huge growth in part-time working published by research institute NERI, it is clear that Northern Ireland faces a particularly difficult set of economic challenges. Northern Ireland has been very badly hit by the recession and has still to experience a recovery. Without a new policy approach, such as that proposed by Unite, the region is rapidly heading towards becoming a permanently ‘low-wage economy’.

“Austerity policies such as the Benefits Reform Bill, cuts to public services and tight wage policy will further reduce local consumption and curtail consequent multiplier growth. These policies will only further exacerbate this relative disadvantage.

“These statistics give good grounds for a new approach to policy-making and the pursuit of an effective industrial policy which meets our needs as a region. There is a growing consensus on the need for an alternative approach to economic development to that being taken by DETI and the NI Executive as a whole.”