'Most managers back a national minimum wage'

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Labour Editor

One of Britain's biggest managers' organisations was yesterday accused of suppressing a survey result which showed an overwhelming majority of its members accepted the principle of a national minimum wage.

Out of more than 2,000 members of the Institute of Personnel Development, many of whom negotiate wages at the country's largest companies, more than 1,500 registered no opposition to the policy which is endorsed by the Labour Party and strongly opposed by the Government.

Some 806 respondents were positively in favour of a statutory minimum rate and a further 722 said that it would depend on the level at which it was set, while 504 members declared their outright opposition.

Sources at the IPD, which yesterday ended its annual conference in Harrogate, said that senior institute officials were dismayed by their members' support for a minimum pay policy and had decided not to reveal the information when other results of the research were published yesterday. The institute has long been keen to shed the traditional left-wing image of personnel officers.

The result of the survey will, however, boost the Labour Party, which is keen to involve employers in the process of setting a rate. Labour has established a working party to prepare the way for a low pay commission which would advise a Labour administration on the minimum rate. The Government argues that a national minimum wage would cost jobs and lead to an inflationary spiral as other groups of workers sought to maintain differentials.

A spokeswoman for the IPD denied there had been any embarrassment over the result of the survey, which was conducted on the institute's behalf by the respected Reward Group.

There was no attempt to suppress the information, she said. Earlier this year the institute had published the results of a survey which showed that 48 per cent of managers in a wide range of professional disciplines had backed a lower limit on wages. The institute, however, had decided to withhold details from the Reward survey because it was based on a small sample, the spokeswoman said.

Many of the papers given at the conference this week have made uncomfortable reading for both the Government and captains of industry. They have argued that there is a wide gap between the rhetoric of flexible labour markets and the reality of insecurity at the workplace.