Living Wage law could kick-start our economy
IF the Assembly genuinely wants to improve the lives of people in Northern Ireland – and kick-start the economy at the same time – it could do worse than introduce legislation allowing for a Northern Ireland Living Wage of at least £7.65 per hour.
In the first instance, it should be introduced for all public-sector employees. The same provision should then be written into contracts with private-sector companies working on publicly funded projects.
As many as 170,000 workers in Northern Ireland are being paid less than a living wage.
Many work in local councils and government departments. The finance minister should act now to introduce the appropriate legislation. Public contracts should only be awarded to employers paying a living wage. This initiative would be a major step in tackling poverty. It should be followed by an urgent, planned programme to address poverty and the working poor and the utilisation of state and public assets to deliver economic change.
Those opposed to a living wage – and those who say we can't afford it – might wish to reflect on the fact that it has already been introduced in Scotland, is being considered in Wales and London Lord Mayor Boris Johnston is one of its biggest advocates.
It's time we tackled poverty with some serious legislation and used the strength and depth of public assets to start shaping the local economy.
General secretary, Workers Party