Assembly pay figures - scandalous

By Carol Barnett Socialist Voice March 2002

RECENT FIGURES released by Stormont show that Northern Ireland Assembly members claimed almost 4m in expenses for the year ended March 2000. At an average of 36,232.51 for the 108 members, this works out at a scandalous three times the average wage of 12,000 for the majority of workers and a far cry from the 8954.40 you can expect to receive if you are on the minimum wage.

This assumes you are able to get the minimum wage at all as many employers play whatever tricks they can to get out of paying it. Last year, the Stormont government were shamed into passing the motion put forward by the Socialist Party asking for the minimum wage to be increased from 4.10 an hour to 5 an hour. However, since this, they have done nothing to push the motion through or even implement it within their own employees. With the rise in living costs, the Socialist Party are now demanding an increase of the minimum wage to 6 an hour.

This is still substantially less than the 8.64 an hour recommended by Europe. Adding the expenses claimed to the basic wage that members already receive of 31,002 with more for Executive Ministers and Committee members means that members could receive more than 78,000 in one year. With the number of times the Assembly has been suspended and time wasted in arguments over trivia, you can judge for yourself if Assembly members are "worth the money".

This is the first time that Stormont has released figures to the public and it is no wonder that Assembly members are not very happy about it. The electorate can now see for themselves the scandalous amount of money that is wasted whilst the members have done nothing to improve the living conditions of the ordinary people they were voted in by.

Socialist Party members who stand in elections always give a commitment to take only a worker's wage. Joe Higgins who is a Socialist Party TD for Dublin West does this. The rest of his salary and allowances is donated to the party and to working class campaigns. New Assembly elections are due next June. We need a working class challenge to make sure that the same old faces do not climb back on board the sectarian gravy train.

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