The new Derry-Strabane Council has passed a motion pledging to bring forward proposals to pay its workers a minimum of the Living Wage.
The new supercouncil made the decision at its monthly meeting at the Guildhall this week before breaking up for the summer recess
The motion was proposed by Derry Sinn Fein Councillor Paul Fleming, and is expected to provide a boost for a significant proportion of the 900-strong workforce which currently work for the local authorities in Derry and Strabane.
This will result in all workers at the new council now earning at least £7.65p an hour compared to the minimum wage of £6.31 for people over the age of 21.
Colr. Fleming said he was bringing the matter forward in recognition of the contribution of low paid workers and the difficulties faced by people who are in employment and struggling to make ends meet.
“The history of workers’ rights and workers’ dignity is a long history and at many times a contested history,” he said, adding that issues such as slavery and people working for a pittance were still problems in the modern age,. Colr. Fleming said that the introduction of the minimum wage in 1998 had proved the “nay sayers who said it would have disastrous consequences” wrong, and was shown to have enhanced people’s lives and the economy.
Introducing the Living Wage, which has already been adopted by Belfast Council, would demonstrate and send out a signal that the council valued its workforce and was committed to the development of quality jobs in the new council, Colr. Fleming said.
The motion was seconded at the meeting by Sinn Fein Councillor Eric McGinley.
Backing the move, SDLP Derry Councillor Shauna Cusack lauded the “sterling work the council staff do,” and lauded the workforce as “unsung heroes”. She added that the number one cause of absenteeism in the current local authority was stress and depression. “I have no doubt financial stress contributes to this,” she said.
The motion to draw up proposals was passed with a slight amendment from Strabane Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher.