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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 08:28 GMT 09:28 UK
Minimum wage 'causing job losses'
Shop worker filling fridge shelves
Firms and unions disagree over the impact of the minimum wage
The national minimum wage has led to 78,000 job losses on the High Street, the British Retail Consortium has said.

The group said more retail job losses were likely in the coming year as the UK minimum wage is set to increase from 5.05 to 5.35 an hour next month.

In a submission to the Low Pay Commission the BRC urged the government to delay the latest rise.

But the claims have sparked a row with unions who say employers are using the threat of job losses to hold back pay.

Figures disputed

"Retailers tell us they are being expected to find 2.7bn extra for wages over just two years," said BRC director general Kevin Hawkins.

Companies can afford a rise, and workers deserve it
Tony Woodley, T&G union

He warned that with rental, energy and other charges "shooting up" some employers are looking to cut staffing costs.

But the TUC dismissed the claims, arguing that official figures showed a different picture and that 23,000 retail jobs had been created over the past two years.

"Every year members of the British Retail Consortium predict that an increase in the minimum wage will cause massive job losses and they are proven wrong," said TUC chief Brendan Barber.

The Transport & General Workers Union (T&G) argued that there needed to be a "bold rise" - to at least 6 an hour - in the national minimum wage in order to battle poverty and inequality.

"Retail is one of the lowest paying sectors yet Tesco, for example, has reported 2.35bn profit, 17% higher than last year," said T&G general secretary Tony Woodley.

"Companies can afford a rise, and workers deserve it."

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