• April 22, 2015


Poverty pay was on the agenda in Tynwald this week when Tynwald Member, Peter Karran, MHK courageously tried during question time to initiate a discussion that would have led to a ‘living wage’ paid to any employee who was granted an Isle of Man work permit.

There has been a concern for some time that work permits were being granted to employees subsequently employed on minimum wage who because of the uncertainties surrounding their employment status (i.e. if they don’t like it they can’t ‘vote with their feet’) can be exploited.

In some senses it was also a double-barrelled proposition and Mr Karran, MHK (a long time proponent of the rights of working people) would be aware that a ‘living wage’ for permit holders would inevitably lead to pressure to push the current meagre minimum wage upwards. That would be a ‘win win’ situation for working people – unfortunately Mr Karran was not surrounded by members who share his view of wage fairness!

The Government were having none of it. Economic Development Minister Laurence Skelly deftly back-heeled the proposal explaining (in a move that must surely win ‘the George Orwell prize for double-speak’) that it was ‘too difficult’ to calculate a ‘living wage’.

The Isle of Man these days prides itself on its adherence to best International standards and government Ministers are constantly prattling on about their record in this regard.

Strange then Mr Skelly (or the many well-paid subalterns he has in his department) is unaware of the Council of Europe Decency Threshold (CoEDT) once set at 68% of average earnings in a State it is now a more modest 60%.

The CoEDT would be a splendid International Standard for the Manx Government to adopt and for once instead of being ‘a marker’ on the International scene to help their ‘well heeled chums’ in Athol Street and the Finance Sector it would benefit ordinary working people – now that’s a novel idea!

Based on the last IOM earnings survey had Mr Karran’s proposal carried and the CoEDT been applied that would provide a minimum wage before tax and NHI of about £360.

Of course the real reason Mr Skelly can’t do his sums is that the Isle of Man government wants a ready pool of low paid workers and if resident IOM workers are not prepared to undertake the really exploitative roles then the permit system is a useful backstop.

One Minister as part of an effort to highlight third world destitution recently made a great play of surviving for a week on a pound a day (no doubt a commendable effort to publicise global destitution).

For the future it might be an idea if those clustered around the Manx government cabinet table with their well stuffed wallets (and prospective ‘golden pensions’) tried surviving for a couple of months on the minimum wage.

Perhaps then Skelly and his Ministerial ilk might pay a little more heed when someone in Tynwald, who still has a shred of social conscience, tries to get the government to up its game on poverty pay!

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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