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Living wage call as workers here still lowest paid in the UK

By Noel McAdam

Published 07/09/2015

Union campaign: Alison Millar
Union campaign: Alison Millar

Workers in Northern Ireland still have the lowest wages in the UK, new research has confirmed.

More working people in the province are paid less than £7 per hour than any other part of the UK, it concluded.

And the lower pay levels means taxpayers are having to cushion families and individuals - through tax credits for example - to a greater extent than the rest of the UK.

The grand total spent on tax credits in Northern Ireland for the last published accounts (2013-14) was £1,050m. If wages here were closer to the norm in England, Scotland and Wales, the bill for taxpayers would have been reduced by more than £200m.

Using the most recent data, a research agency has shown spending on tax credits is £114 more per capita than Britain - and that costs the taxpayer 25% more than the UK average.

Adjusted for population, the NI spend on tax credits per capita is £577, 25% more than the GB average spend of £463.

Alison Millar of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) said the research backed the campaign for a 'living wage' for workers here. The Northern Ireland Committee of ICTU argued it would be the best solution to deal with problems of low productivity and high welfare costs.

"Our real welfare crisis is not caused by layabouts unwilling to do a fair day's work, but employers unwilling to pay a fair day's pay," Ms Millar argued.

Figures showed the 2013 annual gross salary for workers here was £27,697 - almost £6,000 below the UK average.

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