Union urges choice of academic as low-pay chief

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The Independent Online
The leader of Britain's biggest union yesterday urged the Government to appoint a truly independent chair for the Low Pay Commission and called for a national minimum wage more than a pound an hour higher than that favoured by many business leaders.

Having kept its collective head down during the election campaign, Unison, the 1.4m strong public service union, started its campaign to influence the commission being set up by Ian McCartney, Minister of State at the Department of Trade and Industry. Rodney Bickerstaffe, general secretary of Unison, called for an "impartial" commission leader in the wake of news that Peter Jarvis, retiring chief executive of Whitbread, had been sounded out over the job. Mr Jarvis is known to favour a minimum wage of around pounds 3.20, while Unison and other unions are seeking a figure struck at half male median earnings - a rate of up to pounds 4.42.

Mr Bickerstaffe told The Independent yesterday:"I have been campaigning for a minimum wage for 31 years, so I am delighted that at last we're going to get an Act of Parliament. However, I think the chair should be an academic who everyone will see as independent. It would be stupid to appoint somebody that was seen to err on one side or the other."