Unions told not to give Labour lists of demands

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Indy Politics
(First Edition)

A leading union official yesterday urged fellow leaders not to present the Labour Party with 'shopping lists' of demands ahead of a general election.

Paul Gallagher, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, also confessed that he was 'frightened' by the idea of a national minimum wage, expected to be a central plank of the party's manifesto.

The union's policy is to oppose a minimum wage, which he said had the potential to 'destroy' the differential of higher-paid workers.

'It is almost an incomes policy by the back door,' said Mr Gallagher, who took over from Gavin Laird as AEEU general secretary earlier this week. 'But I am fairly open-minded about a minimum wage although it would be stupid to pursue this question now.'

He went on: 'It is wrong to try to push John Smith (the Labour leader) over this issue. It is politically dangerous and I hope that we are not forced into a corner and have to make a stand.'

Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, called last month for a minimum hourly wage of pounds 4, and the issue will be discussed at a number of union conferences over the next few months.

The Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union is to conduct a survey on workers' skills, amid fears that shortages of trained tradesmen and women are hampering Britain's recovery from the recession. It is worried that some employers will try to 'de-skill' many jobs to bypass a shortage of properly trained employees.

Mr Gallagher said he suspected that there were 'considerable' shortages of skills in some industries. 'We are now beginning to see companies taking on labour but it is clear we are seeing skills shortages. There is a danger that employers will try to de-skill the job and spread skills around which will make workers less flexible.'

The results of the survey will be released later this month.