Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Call to halt 'alarming 12% fall in real wages' in Northern Ireland

Worrying times: Paul Kenny says workers need a rise

The buying power of Northern Ireland workers' wages has fallen 12% over the last five years, according to an analysis by the GMB trade union.

Rising inflation and sluggish pay increases are said to be behind the decline in the real value of average earnings here which, although significant, is below the UK average of 13.8%.

Northern Ireland ranks ninth in a list of the 12 UK regions with London workers suffering a 20.4% fall in the real value of their earnings, according to the union's analysis of data from the Office of National Statistics.

Paul Kenny, the GMB's general secretary said that workers deserve a pay rise to halt the drop in living standards.

"These alarming figures show how hard pressed working people across the UK are struggling to pay their bills after years of wage decline and attacks on the living standards of families throughout the land," he said.

In April 2008 the mean gross annual earnings for all employees in employment in the UK according to the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) was £26,137.

The ASHE figure for the mean gross annual earnings for all employees in employment in the UK for April 2013 was £27,174. This is an increase of £1,037 or just 4%.

Between April 2008 and November 2013 inflation has been 17.8%. This means the drop in real value of earnings between April 2008 and November 2013 has been 13.8% for the UK.

Looking at Northern Ireland specifically, the mean gross annual earnings for employees in April 2008 was £21,333, which rose to £22,563 in 2013, by £1,230 or 5.8%.

The news came a day after the CBI called for workers' pay improvements in the New Year.

John Cridland, director general of the organisation said that businesses must support employees to move up the career ladder, while also giving a helping hand to young people taking their first tentative steps into the world of work.

"As the financial situation of many firms begins to turn a corner, one of the biggest challenges facing businesses is to deliver growth that will mean better pay and more opportunities for all their employees after a prolonged squeeze." he said. "The good news is that wages will pick up in the year ahead as growth beds down and productivity improves.

"But there are still far too many people stuck in minimum wage jobs without routes to progression, and that's a serious challenge that businesses and the Government must address."

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