Labour Research May 2002


"Miserly" rise in minimum wage slammed

Public service union UNISON has criticised as "miserly" the 10 pence an hour rise in the minimum wage announced last month.

Trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt confirmed in a Commons written reply that the level for more than 1.5 million low-paid workers will go up in October from £4.10 to £4.20 an hour. The youth rate for 18 to 21-year-olds will also increase by 10 pence to £3.60 an hour.

The minimum wage went up 40 pence last October and the government promised then that it would rise a further 10 pence if economic conditions permitted.

But UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis called on the government to introduce a "living wage". He said: "The government has no excuse for keeping the minimum wage so low. This is a wasted opportunity to do something concrete to alleviate poverty. There should be an immediate increase to turn it into a living wage - £5 an hour would be a good start."

He called on the youth rate to be abolished. "Just because you are under 22 it doesn't mean that you pay less for essentials in life like food, shelter and clothing." He added that "no-one in full-time employment should have to rely on state benefits just to make ends meet, and the tax payers should not have to subsidise miserly employers".