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Abstract

This paper assesses the development and functioning of regional minimum wage regulation in Northern Ireland in the interwar period under a federal form of devolution. Unlike current devolution arrangements in Scotland and Wales, this gave the Stormont Parliament powers over employment and minimum wage regulation. Northern Ireland Trade Boards were set up by the Ulster Unionist Government under the Trade Boards (Northern Ireland) Act 1923 and functioned along the same lines as those in Great Britain. Uniquely in the UK in this period, employer opposition resulted in the main Trade Board in the Irish Linen Industry being replaced by voluntary collective bargaining machinery. About one-quarter of employees were covered by minimum wage regulation, including two-thirds of females in Belfast, keeping a protective floor under low pay.