Business

Wages up £777 in year - but workers still £1,400 worse off

Workers in Northern Ireland are nearly £1,400 worse off in their pay packets than in 2008
Gary McDonald Business Editor

WORKERS in Northern Ireland are out of pocket by nearly £1,400 a year than they were in 2008, according to new TUC analysis.

The average salary in the region soared in real terms by £777 from 2014 to 2015 (up from £19,470 to £20,247) – the first annual increase for several years.

But when the government's preferred CPI inflation measure is taken into account over the last seven years, the actual figure in workers' pay packets should be £21,269, which makes them £1,382 worse off than they should be.

In the UK as a whole, average pay is £2,270 below in real terms where it was in 2008 – a shortfall of £45 a week.

The TUC figures confirm that, despite some strengthening of real wages over 2014 to 2015, workers still have a long way to go to restore all the earnings they lost following the longest squeeze on wages since records began in the 1850s.

And the organisation warns that the government's plans to continue holding back wages in the public sector will have a significant drag on average wage growth, with recent monthly surveys by employment information service XpertHR suggesting that private sector wage settlements remain well below their pre-crisis trend.

The TUC says that while forthcoming increases to the minimum wage have an important role to play in improving wages for some workers, this is not enough.

It adds that concerted action from the government is needed to support stronger wage increases for all low and middle-income workers, not just those at the very bottom.

However, the TUC warns that the government's Trade Union Bill will weaken the power of workers to negotiate a fair share of economic growth through decent pay rises. This could lead to slower wage growth becoming embedded as a longer-term problem, causing trouble not only for workers and their families, but also for businesses that rely on their spending.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: “Working people deserve a fair share of the wealth they create. But despite five years of economic growth, the pressure on their living standards has barely let up. The average annual wage is still worth over £2,000 less than it was back in 2008.

“The government must do the right thing for the economy, and the right thing by workers. They should invest more in the skills and infrastructure the UK needs for higher productivity. They should make sure that working people see productivity gains in their pay packets. And they should work positively with trade unions, instead of attacking workers and their representatives with the Trade Union Bill.”

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