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Unions tackle Blair on low pay.

Byline: JAMES HARDY

TONY BLAIR faces a damaging new challenge from unions next month with demands for a pounds 5.30- an-hour minimum wage.

The TUC Conference is expected to back calls for a 25 per cent rise over two years to lift millions out of poverty.

Union chiefs are privately fed-up with the Government's slow progress with minimum wage - introduced at pounds 3.70 in 1999 and due to go up to pounds 4.20 in October.

TUC general secretary John Monks said it was time the Government took a "bold" step to lift more workers out of poverty pay.

The revolt will be an embarrassment for Blair as he fights to keep Labour's union paymasters happy.

Monks said: "Minimum wage is one of the Labour government's major successes. It has made a real difference to more than a million workers.

"But it's time to be bolder and grasp the opportunity to make it an even more effective weapon against poverty."

The decision to press for a pounds 5-an-hour minimum, rising to pounds 5.30 by 2004, was agreed by the TUC General Council last week.

The council admitted the Government was right to proceed "prudently" when minimum wage was brought in, but a "significant rise" should be sanctioned because the fear of wide- scale job losses had not materialised.

The council said a rise is "desirable and sustainable".

It argued the minimum wage needed to do more than keep pace with earnings growth to be "a tool for economic and social good".

Bosses will argue a sharp increase will push up costs, leading to higher prices.

Chancellor Gordon Brown is also likely to resist. He has warned public sector chiefs not to blow massive spending increases on staff pay.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 12, 2002
Words:291
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