Liam Gallagher, secretary of Derry Trades Council, has called for Derry workers to seek immediate help if they aren’t receiving their full minimum wage. Research conducted by the Low Pay Commission suggests deep government cuts to promotion and inspection are leaving more vulnerable workers at risk of exploitation.
Mr Gallagher told the Journal that non-payment of the minimum wage is largely concentrated in the hospitality and retail sectors, where employers are under great pressure from falling demand and dwindling bank lending. In this climate, Mr Gallagher worries that “people are keeping their heads down, keeping their heads below the parapet, and this can lead to exploitation. That’s why we need robust monitoring - the minimum wage is the basic payment to keep body and soul together.” He says enforcement of the statutory minimum is “absolutely essential.”
While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that the minimum wage is ignored by some employers, no-one has ever been prosecuted under the law in Northern Ireland. According to Revenue and Customs, tasked with enforcing the law, fewer than 5 cases were investigated in the Derry area last year. According to Revenue and Customs, tasked with enforcing the law, fewer than five cases were investigated in the Derry area last year, out of a total of 124 in Northern Ireland. Only five members of staff, based in Belfast, cover Northern Ireland. A spokesperson for HMRC told the Journal the organisation is “committed to prosecuting the most serious cases of non-compliance.”