Sir: I was interested to read Diane Coyle's column ("The true cost of a minimum wage", 21 September) on the effect of a minimum wage on women, and her suggestion that the "TUC's arbitrary level of pounds 4.15, presented as half the median male wage, would harm women".
The TUC is committed to a formula for the minimum wage of half male median earnings. However, this formula can produce hourly rates ranging from pounds 3.63 to pounds 4.15, depending on assumptions made about overtime and hours of work. It was agreed at Congress earlier this month that additional work is necessary before the TUC commits itself to an explicit target figure for the national minimum wage. In particular, further thought needs to be given to the relationship between the minimum wage and the social security system. The effects of the minimum wage on sectors with particular concentrations of low pay must also be taken into account.
It should be remembered that the national minimum wage will not be introduced until the end of 1997 at the earliest. In the interim, unions will be pursuing a target figure in negotiations with employers of a minimum of pounds 4 per hour. Our intention is to use collective bargaining to tackle low pay in advance of the election of a Labour government.
The question is, how much higher can the minimum rate be pushed before adverse employment effects appear? This is obviously an issue that the TUC will be considering in greater detail and will no doubt be one of the principal issues for the Low Pay Commission proposed by the Labour Party after the general election.
Trades Union Congress