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MINIMUM WAGE SHOWS SOCIAL PARTNERSHIP CAN WORK

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'The way the Low Pay Commission conducted its business, and the unanimous agreement on its recommendations, provide...
'The way the Low Pay Commission conducted its business, and the unanimous agreement on its recommendations, provide proof that social partnership can work', George Bain, chairman of the commission, told trade union leaders recently.

'A minimum wage was always seen by some as controversial and divisive. But by working together, with commissioners drawn from employer, employee and academic organisations, we have been able to establish a National Minimum Wage which is broadly accepted throughout society.'

Speaking at the TUC Congress in Blackpool, Professor Bain acknowledged that the commission's recommendations had been below what the TUC had pressed for. But he stressed that a rate of£3.60 would make a real difference. Some two million workers would see

their pay rise. And it would mean some protection for workers most at risk of exploitation - those who are not union members. This was a good start.

'The minimum wage represents a wage floor, not a wage policy', said Mr Bain. 'Union members will no doubt continue to have levels of pay higher than the minimum. But that was an issue for the unions themselves, not the commission.'

While the government had decided on a lower rate for 18-21 year olds than the commission had recommended, Mr Bain insisted that young people would still feel the benefit. 'When the National Minimum Wage is introduced, around 250,000 young people will see their pay increase - with many having a substantial increase.'

The commission believed that it was right to be cautious initially. Young people's prospects could be damaged by proceeding too quickly and without a realistic assessment of the current state of the labour market.

The commission will have a key role in the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation and impact of the minimum wage. Mr Bain said that 'the national minimum wage is a permanent feature of the labour market, and it is a living feature which can change over

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