School-leavers 'exploited in jobs'

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SOME school-leavers are on 'exploitation wages' as low as 90p an hour following relaxation of minimum wage laws.

The Greater Manchester Low Pay Unit has found many young people working long hours for little reward. One 16-year-old boy worked in a supermarket on a 50- hour week for pounds 1.40 an hour. The adult rate was at least pounds 3.08. Other situations highlighted by the unit include: a boy aged 16, working in a Wigan garage at pounds 1.26 an hour for a 47.5-hour week; a 17-year-old clerical worker at a garage in Bury being paid 90p an hour. At 18 the pay would rise to pounds 1.25 an hour; a Rochdale woman being offered a restaurant job for pounds 1.66 an hour for a 30-hour week - the adult minimum was pounds 2.80; and a 17- year-old from Hyde who did sales canvassing for two weeks was paid pounds 20 for 36 hours' work in the first week and the same amount for 78 hours' work in the second week.

Wendy Mustill, a spokeswoman for the unit, said: 'Some school- leavers are faced with the prospect of working very long hours for unbelievably low wages . . . These jobs are totally exploitative of young people's desire to find work in a very difficult economic climate.'

She said people under 21 were no longer covered by minimum wage legislation, and some youngsters earned less than pounds 54 a week.