TUC submits evidence on national minimum wage

In January 2001, the Trades Union Congress presented evidence to the Low Pay Commission, which is currently considering whether to recommend an increase in the UK's national minimum wage.

As requested by the government, the independent Low Pay Commission (LPC) is continuing to monitor and evaluate the impact of the national minimum wage (NMW) and will be making recommendations on whether it should be increased, in a report due by July 2001 (UK0007182N). On 31 January 2001, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) presented evidence to the LPC. This follows evidence given during November and December 2000 by the government, the Confederation of British Industry and the Engineering Employers Federation (UK0101108N).

The TUC told the LPC that it wanted to see:

  • a significant up-rating of the adult NMW, currently GBP 3.70 per hour, to between GBP 4.50 and GBP 5.00 per hour (UK0009187N);
  • the abolition of the youth rate of the NMW for those aged 18-21 years, currently GBP 3.20 per hour (an objective jointly supported by the TUC and the National Union of Students);
  • the introduction of a new minimum wage for 16- and 17-year-olds, based on a lower fixed percentage of the adult NMW rate;
  • the annual up-rating of the NMW, based on annual references to the LPC; and
  • a "sustained and determined effort" to guarantee effective enforcement of the NMW.

TUC general secretary John Monks said in a statement: "The minimum wage needs to rise significantly in the future if low-paid workers are to avoid falling back into poverty. We also want to see an end to the situation where younger workers are paid less an hour than their older colleagues. After all, their living costs are just the same."

The TUC believes that most employers now comply with the NMW legislation, but that too many workers are still being paid less than their legal entitlement. The TUC quotes government figures which suggest that 300,000 workers are not being paid the GBP 3.70 adult rate. The TUC estimates that some 130,000 workers are probably not receiving this amount for legitimate reasons (perhaps because they are on accredited training courses and are getting the GBP 3.20 training rate, or are being paid less because they receive free or subsidised accommodation), leaving 170,000 people who should be getting the NMW but are not.

The TUC has also published new guidance on enforcing the NMW, intended to assist unions and other advice agencies in tackling underpaying employers.

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