Cost-of-living crisis: Councillors clash over ‘living wage’ proposal

The SDLP has accused its political rivals at a Northern Ireland council of rejecting a proposal to pay all its workers — including sub-contracted staff — a “real living wage” of £9.90 an hour.

By Niall Deeney
Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 4:26 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 6:00 pm

The proposal was put forward by the SDLP councillor Roisin Lynch at a meeting of Antrim and Newtownabbey Council on Tuesday.

The DUP expressed support for the idea but put forward an amendment to commit to “a level of pay based on the principle that full-time work should guarantee a decent standard of living” — along with an investigation of the implications beforehand. The amendment passed with the backing of Sinn Fein, Alliance and the UUP.

DUP councillor Philip Brett raised concerns about the council “setting a price for outside agencies or business”, adding: “It is for us to set our own prices.”

SDLP councillor Roisin Lynch

The SDLP has criticised the decision. Its councillor Roisin Lynch, in a statement, said: “My motion was designed to ensure that staff are paid fairly and what they’re worth and that it wasn’t successful sends a real message about how some parties value our council staff.

Councillors said they wanted to see a full investigation into the cost of paying our staff the real living wage, but people cannot afford to wait. Families in our council area and across the North are dealing with a real emergency – the cost of food, fuel and energy has skyrocketed and people are struggling to heat their home, put food on the table and fuel in their cars.”

Mr Brett, however, hit back saying: “The SDLP has no plan and are only focused on bluster.”

He added: “I am delighted that all parties, with the exception of the SDLP, supported our plan to ensure council staff will be paid at least the living wage.”