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CONOR MURPHY, NORTHERN IRELAND MINISTER FOR THE ECONOMY, SETS OUT HIS ECONOMIC VISION

21/02/2024

Speaking in the Assembly on 19 February 2024, Mr Conor Murphy the Economy Minister for Norther Ireland set out Four Key Priorities as part of a new Economic Mission.

These are:

  1. Create Good Jobs
  2. To promote regional balance
  3. Raise Productivity
  4. Reduce Carbon Emissions
  5. CREATE GOOD JOBS.

He noted that many workers and their families are being denied a decent standard of living and this must be changed by:

  • investing in affordable childcare
  • strengthening trade unions, particularly in low-paid industries.

It will be interesting to see how good work and good jobs are defined and it may well be that some form Employers’ Good Work Charters are endorsed. The Labour Relations Agency has conducted research on an Employment Relations Model for Northern Ireland which may be considered under this objective.

  1. TO PROMOTE REGIONAL BALANCE.

The Minster stated that everyone, no matter where they live, should have the same opportunity to earn a living. The Department will fund local economic strategies and prioritise projects that promote regional balance.

  1. RAISE PRODUCTIVITY

Improve productivity by using dual market access to grow domestic exports and attract highly productive investment. Investment in skills, research and development, and innovation will also drive better productivity.

  1. REDUCE CARBON EMISSIONS.

Reaching Net Zero by 2050 is a legal requirement and a moral obligation to the wellbeing of future generations.

Mr Murphy also announced that the appointment of 4 independent experts on each objective. On the Good Jobs Objective, the independent expert is Dr Lisa Wilson of Nevin Economic Research Institute an organisation which is supported by The Irish Congress of Trade Unions & all of its affiliate unions.

The Good Jobs Objective is to increase the proportion of working-age people in good jobs.

He stated: “It is not acceptable that being in work does not guarantee a reasonable standard of living. This is particularly the case for women and people with disabilities, who disproportionately make up the low-paid.

The Plan increases the number of people working in Good Jobs includes:

  • Investing in affordable childcare and fair pay for childcare workers
  • Creating more and better paid apprenticeships and skills academies
  • Replacing zero-hour contracts with contracts that provide flexibility and protect workers rights
  • Strengthening the role of trade unions, particularly in low-paying sectors
  • Altering our economic structure by supporting industries that provide good jobs.
  • Harnessing the unrealised potential of the social economy.

COMMENTARY

The Plan gives clear insight into the immediate direction for employment law. Certainly, Norther Ireland will not be following Great Britain in terms of trade union laws and indeed  it would appear that we will be going in the opposite direction. There will be no equivalent to the Strikes and Minimum Service Act or any consideration of using agency workers to replace striking workers.

Zero-hour contracts could be on their way out and replaced with a contract that is more balanced between worker and business.

In terms of good work expect more incentives for business that provide good jobs. We will wait to see how ‘Good Work’ is defined. As stated above we could see more types of Good Work Charters / Models being endorsed.

The full statement can be viewed here and announcement here