TUC seeks substantial increase in national minimum wage

In August 2000, the Trades Union Congress called for an increase in the UK's national minimum wage to between GBP 4.50 and GBP 5.00 per hour. The move has been attacked by the Confederation of British Industry.

On 25 August 2000, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) published a statement agreed by its governing general council arguing that the national minimum wage (NMW) should be increased substantially in October 2001 to "well over GBP 4.00 and in the range of GBP 4.50 to GBP 5.00". The NMW, first introduced in April 1999 at GBP 3.60 an hour (UK9904196F), is due to be increased to an hourly rate of GBP 3.70 from October 2000 (UK0003158N). The statement says: "the twin goals of tackling in-work poverty and labour market exploitation require a more robust floor under wages than the current NMW levels provide". The TUC is "confident" that this can be this can be achieved without causing job losses.

The TUC statement also calls for:

  • the abolition of the youth rate of the NMW, currently GBP 3.20 an hour, for workers aged 18-21, with the full adult rate becoming payable at age 18;
  • the introduction of a minimum wage rate for 16- and 17-year-olds, who are not currently covered by any statutory minimum; and
  • the establishment of a regular uprating process for the NMW.

TUC general secretary John Monks commented: "The minimum wage was introduced at a deliberately cautious level. Now it is clear – despite employer warnings – that the impact on jobs is negligible, the minimum wage should be uprated to a more realistic level." He described the youth rate as "indefensible". "People doing the same job should get the same wage," he said.

However, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) attacked the TUC's proposals as "potentially very damaging", involving a "hike" in the NMW of "up to 35%". The CBI's director of human resources policy, Susan Anderson, agreed that the NMW should be uprated periodically, but said that employers were strongly opposed to automatic annual increases: "It is one thing to raise the minimum wage at a time of economic growth, but quite another to be tied to an increase during an economic downturn."

Both the CBI and the TUC have representatives on the Low Pay Commission (LPC) – the independent body which advises the government on the implementation of the NMW. In June 2000, the UK government published terms of reference for the next phase of the LPC's work. These ask the Commission to report by July 2001 on the impact of the NMW and make recommendations on its future uprating (UK0007182N).

The general council's statement was due to be considered by the TUC's annual conference, which takes place on 11-14 September 2000.

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