Politics: Unison throws down challenge on low pay

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The Independent Online
LABOUR'S largest union affiliate yesterday urged the Government to abandon attempts to involve business in the public sector and called for a minimum wage pounds 1 an hour higher then the figure expected.

The Unison public-service union also expressed misgivings about the employment-rights package due to be announced tomorrow. The union also nominated a representative for Labour's national executive who will be considered "off-message" by Downing Street.

Delegates to Unison's political conference in Torquay voted for abolition of the Private Finance Initiative, which the Government is pursuing as a means of winning private finance for public projects. The 80 delegates insisted the proposed statutory national minimum wage should be pounds 4.61, whereas later this month the Low Pay Commission is expected to recommend to ministers a figure of pounds 3.60.

Unison's senior activists selected the increasingly prominent Anne Picking as one of its two representatives on the party executive. She replaces Christine Wilde, who has been held partly responsible for the union's inability to bring a left- wing influence to bear on Labour. By a 41- 39 majority the conference defeated a motion that would have committed Labour's most influential group to the repel of all union legislation since 1979. It would have allowed unfettered secondary action and paved the way for unions to alter their rule books to allow strikes without ballots.