North: Fight for young workers’ rights

Philip Lynn

For the majority of young people in Northern Ireland life is getting more difficult rather than easier.

Despite forecasts in the past of a ‘peace dividend’, ordinary working class people and youth have seen little improvement in their daily lives, in fact the Assembly Executive’s policies are set to make things worse.

Unemployment is becoming an increasingly likely prospect for many young people. For 18-24 year olds, the rate of unemployment has increased by 4% to 11% in the last year alone. This adds to the difficulties facing young workers who often earn low levels of pay based on a discriminatory minimum wage. Last year saw a 3% rise in the minimum wage for workers aged 22 or over, bringing it to £5.52 despite an 11 year high of over 4% in the Retail Price Index of inflation. For younger workers, the minimum wage is even more appalling. The rate for 18- 21 year olds is now £4.60 and the rate for 16 and 17 year olds has increased up by 10p to £3.40.

What makes these levels of poverty pay and unemployment even more unbearable is the Assembly’s pro-big business agenda – cuts in the health service, funnelling public money into private pockets through PFI and PPP projects, privatising our water service, which will cause a huge rise in water bills and will add to the precarious situation facing many young workers.

For many students, the situation is the same: desperate. Increasing living costs combined with tuition fees of over £3,000 a year are either leaving students in crippling amounts of debt or are forcing them out of universities altogether.

Despite the Assembly flirting with the idea of a Scottish-style education system (which, contrary to popular belief, still leaves many students under a mountain of debt) no commitments have been made to offer students what they need – free education and a living grant for all.

These shortcomings are not mistakes on the Assembly’s part. Rather they are part of a conscious policy to put the interests of big business in front of the interests of workers and young people.

Socialist Youth believes that now, perhaps more than ever, it is necessary to organise a fightback against the neo- liberal attacks being made on workers and young people.

We are an active campaigning organisation, which fights against all forms of discrimination, sectarianism and exploitation and for a democratically run socialist alternative to the neo-liberal attacks of the Assembly parties.

Get involved: Join the fightback today! Join Socialist Youth

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