John Monks, TUC leader, described the plan to apply a lower national minimum wage to the under-25s as "dynamite". Speaking on a platform with Peter Mandelson, Mr Monks warned against the proposal which he believes would alienate new voters in the next election.
After the fringe meeting, he said that many young workers had children and a full range of adult responsibilities and therefore needed to be covered by statutory adult pay rates.
Margaret Beckett, President of the Board of Trade, last week sent a memorandum to the Low Pay Commission which will advise the Cabinet on a national minimum wage, asking it to "consider" a lower rate for those under the age of 25. In his speech to the meeting on the relationship between unions and government, Mr Mandelson said that a different statutory minimum "will" apply to the young.
Later, Mr Mandelson, who lon Monday failed to win a seat on the National Executive Committee, tried to draw the sting from his remarks.
He said the Government did not wish to see the policy provide a "disincentive" for young people to stay on in education and training or to restrict employment opportunities. "Therefore we have asked the Commission to consider carefully this area."
He said that whatever "interpretation" had been placed on his remarks, it was up to the Commission to make recommendations on lower rates or exemptions for young people.
The TUC believes that the statutory minimum should be applied to all "fully trained" adults and is calling for the rate to be struck at more than pounds 4 an hour. Yesterday some ministers were indicating that the limit might be pounds 3.85.Reuse content