LABOUR IN BRIGHTON: Officials move to avert low-pay row Bid to avert vote on low-pay rate

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The Independent Online
Senior Labour officials and representatives of the biggest unions were in pursuit of a conference delegate in Brighton last night in an attempt to avert potential embarrassment today in a debate on the national minimum wage, writes Barrie Clement.

The party and its major affiliates hoped to persuade Jane Saren, from Edinburgh Central constituency, to remit a motion calling for a rate of pounds 4.15. Party leaders want a low-pay commission to advise on a minimum figure under the Labour government and is anxious to avert a conference vote for any particular rate.

If Ms Saren refuses to co-operate, the chances of the motion being passed were hanging in the balance last night after unions seemed to be split on the issue. The largest affiliate, the Transport & General Workers Union, had sought the remission of the proposition, but opted to oppose it if it is tabled. The union's policy is to back the pounds 4.15 but T&G delegates are prepared to vote against it because of what appeared to be a drafting error. The composite motion called for a minimum to be struck at half male median earnings to be uprated eventually to two-thirds of average earnings.

Bill Morris, leader of the T&G, pointed out his union's policy was that the amount should rise over time to two-thirds of "median" earnings. He denied his union was voting against the resolution to placate Tony Blair. The T&G leader said the wording of the motion was "confused" and that it was different to the union's policy.

The GMB general union also wants the proposition to be remitted but will back it if it goes before the conference.