TUC sets out election stall

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The TUC yesterday set out its bottom line for a national minimum wage and a Labour government in a document aimed at providing Tony Blair with a smooth path to Downing Street.

In what will be seen as a trade union election manifesto, the TUC effectively demands that pay rates should not fall below pounds 4 at a time when senior Labour figures are thinking in terms of a statutory rate between pounds 3.30 and pounds 3.40.

The paper, Partners for Pro-gress seeks to minimise the union movement's potential to embarrass Labour during the election campaign, but raises substantial points of disagreement between what traditionalists call "the two wings of the Labour movement".

Unions call for a pact which would give public sector workers greater job security - an aspiration endorsed by remnants of the left-wing at senior levels in the Labour Party, but rejected by those close to Mr Blair.

The TUC calls for a compulsory levy on companies to pay for training and a new tripartite forum on the economy, both of which are frowned upon by the Labour leadership.

The TUC's paper was leaked to a lobby correspondent yesterday in an attempt to minimise the possibility of journalists emphasising the clashes between the party and unions.

Setting aside any differences of opinion, Labour's deputy leader, John Prescott, who addressed the TUC's ruling general council yesterday, said the document hit the right note. "A new Labour government wants unions to be part of the solution to the great problems the country needs to solve," he said.

Mr Monks said the manifesto was an attempt to encapsulate new unionism: "Resolute in the defence of people at work but willing to take our share of the responsibilities for contrib-uting to the economic success of our country, its companies and its public services."

The TUC hopes for a new style of government which was not automatically hostile to unions, however Mr Monks conceded that there would be no favours.

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