July 9th: Unite members across Northern Ireland’s local authorities will take strike action tomorrow (Thursday July 10th) following an overwhelming vote for the action by Unite members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Speaking in support of the workers, Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly pointed out today that local authority workers’ wages have fallen by 16 per cent in real terms since 2008, and many are now paid well below the Living Wage:
“Local Government has become a low-pay employer as council workers have gone from enduring pay freezes to being given pay increases which fall way below the inflation in the cost of living. Across Northern Ireland, Wales and England over 1 million local authority workers earn less than the coalition’s threshold income target of £21,000 a year and more than half of these are paid less than £15,000 a year. Wages of the 1.6 million local authority workers have fallen by 16% in real terms since 2008.
“The cumulative impact of this pay policy has now reached the stage that the government had to scrap the lowest public sector pay scale last October as it fell below the minimum wage threshold. In addition to the pay squeeze, workers have lost a range of other benefits in the same period. As a result of all these attacks, increasing numbers are becoming dependent on loans, borrowing from friends and family and food banks. This situation is intolerable.
“Our members have overwhelmingly rejected the employers’ derisory offer of a 1% pay increase – which was substantially below inflation and would result in a further fall in real pay. We are demanding an across-the-board increase of £1 per hour to take the lowest paid council staff over the Living Wage threshold.
“We are confident that members of the public understand the need for all workers to be paid a decent wage – a Living Wage.
“Paying workers less is a false economy. The depressed level of wages in Northern Ireland is stifling small businesses and an economy structurally dependent on household consumption. Northern Ireland needs a pay increase. This strike action is the first step in the campaign to deliver that pay increase for all workers”, Mr Kelly concluded.