November 25th: Addressing an audience of MLAs and business leaders in Stormont’s Long Gallery today, Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly said that Northern Ireland deserved a modern and dynamic economy which could grow jobs, and he called for a focus on what he termed ‘substantial, sustained and smart’ investment. Launching a working paper by the union entitled Growing the Economy and Living Standards, Mr Kelly also called on the Northern Ireland Executive to introduce sectoral collective bargaining in a bid to increase wages and living standards, thus generating increased domestic demand.
“At present, Northern Ireland has high levels of unemployment and underemployment, poverty and deprivation – and low levels of economic activity. This status quo is neither acceptable nor inevitable.
“Unite’s proposals are focused on three main areas: growing investment, growing enterprises and growing wages and living standards.
“The public realm has a crucial role to play in all these areas – whether investing in our economic infrastructure, promoting collective bargaining and introducing a living wage, or identifying what we term ‘companies of excellence’ which can avail of support from public agencies. Needless to say, ‘companies of excellence’ must have a strong commitment to labour rights and worker participation.
“Given the current debate, I would like to make one thing very clear: Unite is resolutely opposed to privatisation of our public assets. The evidence is clear: as private owners seek to increase shareholder value, privatisation means less investment, fewer jobs and reduced services for the public. Northern Ireland has an opportunity to avoid the mistakes elsewhere.
“The proposals being published today by Unite are simply a work-in-progress. Our aim is to start a debate and bring all stakeholders together to map out a new course for Northern Ireland”, Jimmy Kelly concluded.