The minimum wage has been cut by between 1% and 2.4%, despite the government claiming that the minimum wage rate increased in October. For workers aged 21 and over, the rate increased from £5.80 to £5.93 an hour – an extra £5.20 a week – but prices are rising at a faster pace. The lowest paid now have less money to spend on basics. According to government statistics, the Consumer Price Index measure of inflation is 3.1%. The Retail Price Index though (which is a more accurate measure of inflation for the low paid) is currently 4.6%. The minimum wage legislation discriminates against young workers (18-21 year olds are entitled to £4.92 an hour and 16 and 17 year olds are entitled to £3.64!) but Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s don’t have lower prices for young people. This cut is hitting the youngest and lowest paid workers in the country. That is why Socialist Youth is campaigning to abolish the youth exemptions and for an immediate increase to £8 minimum wage as a step towards a living minimum wage.
As reported in The Socialist (October 2009), grassroots campaigns have been growing to meet threats posed to the continued existence of rural schools throughout Fermanagh. The most developed of which established itself around the demand that St Mary’s Brollagh, a rural secondary school just outside Belleek, remain open.
There was an emphatic response to the savagery of the Con Dem spending cuts on Saturday in Edinburgh. Just 3 days after the government’s spending review that had proposed cuts of £81 billion in public spending, well over 20,000 people took to the streets for the Scottish TUC demonstration.
Angela Merkel and the major EU governments are taking an interest in making sure Irish working class people pay up for the economic crisis. They are going to check Brian Lenihan’s budgets from now on, just to make sure they contain enough cuts. And to pacify their “European partners”, Brian Cowen has ordered his Ministers to come up with €3 billion in cuts by the end of the month.
Communities victims of Executive inaction
After six weeks of rain in which there were only two dry days, many parts of Fermanagh were under water in the early weeks of December. The county, which is divided diagonally by Upper and Lower Lough Erne, saw many of its tributary rivers burst their banks and flow over fields and roads criss-crossing the countryside. The lough itself rose from about 45.8 metres to 48.2 metres flooding large areas of farmland leaving families living on raised positions cut-off as water engulfed their access roads and made them impassable. My own great-aunt had to be evacuated as her home in Innisroosk was cut off once again making sense of a townland name signifying an island. Many other families suffered this experience as inadequate infrastructure failed in the face of exceptional rainfall.