North: Living in Different Worlds

by Terry McDonagh
Socialist Voice February 2003

SPARE A thought for the Lord Chancellor, Derry Irvine. He has had to postpone his full pay rise of 12.6% or 22,000.

The timing of the announcement that his salary would go from 180,736 to 202,736, coinciding with the government's declaration that teachers and other public sector workers would only get a 2.9% rise was just a bit much. So instead, he is going to take just 2.25% for now.

Before you feel too sorry for him, remember that 2.25% of his salary is 4,000 a year. But then if you have his tastes, 4,000 is not a lot. This is the same Lord Irvine who decorated his official residence with 300 rolls of wallpaper. 4,000 would only buy him 13 full rolls of wallpaper!

Meanwhile back in the real world, the End Low Pay Campaign has taken up the case of a waitress working in a Lisburn restaurant run by a company with other restaurants in Belfast and Bangor.

Staff in this establishment get the minimum wage of 4.20 - that means it would take them two weeks to earn enough to buy Lord Irvine a single roll of wallpaper! Management have just approached them to sign a document agreeing that if customers walk out without paying, the cost of the meal will be deducted from the wages of the person who serves them.

Moreover, if the till is ever found to be short, the amount missing is to be taken from the wages of those working on that shift.

It is time trade unions mounted a massive campaign to end the 21st century slavery that is rife in the so called "hospitality" sector. There should be an all out drive to unionise hotels, shops and restaurants and to force them to pay at least 6 an hour.

This is the figure the End Low Pay Campaign is fighting for, as a first step to the European Decency Threshold figure of around 8 an hour.

If employers say 6 is too much just remember it is only half of what the Lord Chancellor was offered as an increase.

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