'Exploited' Londonderry workers struggling to pay bills, study finds – Belfast Telegraph


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Unions call for action on pay and conditions as survey paints bleak picture of jobs market
Union hits out at the “exploitation” of workers in Londonderry.
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Trade unionists have hit out at the “exploitation” of workers in Londonderry after a new study found many faced low pay and poor conditions.
According to the results of a survey by the Derry Trades Union Council (DTUC), 35% of workers in the area do not earn more than the minimum wage, 67% receive only statutory sick pay and 73% struggle with bills. Of these, some 45% are on part-time or zero-hours contracts, face harassment at work and do not have trade union representation.
The DTUC’s Niall McCarroll said: “The political classes and bosses must act to address the exploitation and undervaluing of our young people and the wider local labour force.
“The local chambers of commerce must also take on the responsibility, with others, of reversing years of wage inequalities and hardships which have been created through profit-driven employment practices.
“A culture which has derisory take-home pay as fundamental to its existence is leaving workers barely able to survive.
“The laughter of our children is being muffled by capitalists. We should not accept any young person being paid £4.62 an hour.
“Businesses should be asked, and make it known, how much they pay their workers, and in turn, we will decide where we spend our money.
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“The link between substandard contracts of employment, poverty pay and socio-economic hardships is well researched.
“Poor terms and conditions of employment are putting pressure on our health service and working-class communities.”
The Londonderry Chamber of Commerce declined to comment when asked what efforts it was making to address poor terms and conditions for local workers, and whether the Department for the Economy was doing enough to drive investment in the area.
Invest NI said it promoted Northern Ireland as a whole, rather than focusing on, for example, Belfast.
However, an Invest NI document titled This is Northern Ireland mentions Belfast 16 times and Queen’s University four. Derry gets two mentions.
SDLP Foyle MLA Sinead McLaughlin said the city’s problems with high unemployment and low pay were caused by its dependence on the hospitality and retail sectors.
While believing the city deal announced by the government at the beginning of the year has the potential to transform the city, she said the Department for the Economy had failed to instruct Invest NI to target those areas with the highest unemployment and deprivation.
Derry City and Strabane District Council said it fully supported workers’ rights and equal and fair wages for all. A spokeswoman added the council’s growth programme involved developing a range of innovative and transformative projects that will bring an additional 7,000 jobs by 2032.
The Department for the Economy referred this newspaper to its Vision for a 10x Economy paper, published in May.
A spokesperson said the plan was “focused on delivering positive outcomes for all of the people in Northern Ireland, including the north-west”.
They added: “Northern Ireland has a robust framework of employment rights in place which provides important protections for workers. 
“All employers must ensure they comply with their statutory obligations and, at the least, meet the standards set out in the legislation.”
Westminster’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the government is determined to ensure work pays, including for younger workers.
She added: “This is why from April 2022, young employees will see an increase in their National Minimum Wage rates, to £6.83 for those aged 18-20 and £4.81 for those aged under 18.
“We are committed to going even further to support workers, pushing ahead with plans to include a new right for all workers to request a more predictable contract from their employers, giving individuals the security they need.”

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