TUC wants a minimum of pounds 4.26 per hour

Unions v the Labour Party: Frontbencher dismisses resolution at Blackpool as Blair's call for ballot in post dispute is spurned
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The Independent Online
In defiance of the Labour Party and warnings from the Tories of a million job losses, the TUC yesterday carried a motion backing a minimum wage of pounds 4.26 an hour.

Better news for Labour however came from the CBI, which although arguing that the TUC figure would cause 100,000 redundancies, agreed to serve on the Low Pay Commission envisaged by Tony Blair, which would take evidence and advise the government on a minimum.

The resolution passed by the TUC at its annual congress in Blackpool yesterday was dismissed as "predictable" by Labour's employment spokesman, Ian McCartney.

In order to lessen the embarrassment to Mr Blair, the TUC also passed a resolution in support of a minimum rate of pounds 4 as "reasonable". A third decision means no figure would be recommended by the TUCuntil after the election.

There were appeals for unity and calm during a heated debate as unions expressed their support for the two figures.

John Edmonds, of the GMB, which supported the pounds 4 figure, said that despite unprecedented support among voters and businesses for a minimum wage, the unions were embarking on a "dangerous" row.

"They are nervous people, these politicians on the eve of an election. If we over-reach ourselves we know what will happen," Mr Edmonds said. "The party leadership will rubbish our figure, some of the Labour movement will cry betrayal and not only will we damage our chances of getting a decent minimum wage, we might even damage the Labour Party's chances in the next election."

A rapturously received Arthur Scargill, leader of the Socialist Labour Party and president of the NUM, who supported a figure of pounds 4.26, said the TUC had become known as the "fudge factory". "I'm fed up to the back teeth with people telling us not to rock the boat before a general election . . . let's exert our independence and go for pounds 4.26," he said. That figure was also supported by the fire brigades union and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers.

Gwen Macleod, a machinist for Pretty Polly paid between pounds 4.20 and pounds 4.30 an hour, accused union leaders of "testing their virility".

Before both motions were overwhelmingly carried, John Monks, TUC general secretary, stressed that the TUC was not attempting to impose a figure on the Labour Party.

The Prime Minister said a minimum wage would "hurt the people it is meant to help".

People on low pay: Who gets what

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES EARNING LESS THAN . . . (1,000s)

MEN

Full-time Part-time All

pounds 2.50 248 149 397

pounds 3 434 185 619

pounds 3.50 788 269 1057

pounds 4 1313 324 1637

WOMEN

Full-time Part-time All

pounds 2.50 245 416 661

pounds 3 474 780 1254

pounds 3.50 831 1524 2355

pounds 4 1271 2096 3367

ALL

Full-time Part-time All

pounds 2.50 493 565 1058

pounds 3 908 965 1873

pounds 3.50 1619 1793 3412

pounds 4 2584 2620 5004

PERCENTAGE OF WORKERS EARNING LESS THAN . . . (%)

pounds 2.50 pounds 3 pounds 3.50 pounds 4

RETAIL TRADE 10.5 17.5 33.8 47.1

WAITERS 18.2 32.6 45.9 60.0

CLEANERS 8.4 16.7 41.9 48.4

Source: Richard Dickens & Steve Machin, The Centre for Economic Performance, LSE

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