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EDITIONS
Minimum wage Tuesday, 30 March, 1999, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Just a beginning
Rodney Bickerstaffe, General Secretary of the public service union Unison, hails the introduction of the minimum wage but promises to carry on campaigning for a "living wage" for the low paid.

Thursday 1 April 1999 is an historic day for Unison - it's the day on which the statutory national minimum wage comes into force.

It is an historic victory for us and for all those who fought for it for the past 30 years in the face of huge opposition, often from other trade unions.

Minimum wage
Everyone should be giving the minimum wage law three cheers. The loudest cheer should come from those 2m people who will be the first to benefit form the law by having their pay lifted up to the statutory minimum.

It should be a matter of national shame that in this rich country there are still so many people earning less than 3.60 an hour, 3 if you are under 22.

But there are another 3m who already earn above that princely sum of 3.60 an hour but less than 5 an hour who will get nothing.

Our aim has always been that the statutory national minimum wage should be tagged to earnings. We managed to get the TUC and the Labour Party to adopt a formula of half male median earnings - now giving a figure of 4.79 - hardly a fortune.

Not a finishing line

We will continue to campaign for that formula to be adopted. Working people deserve more. The government could do better, the country can afford more and 3.60 should be seen as a starting block not a finishing line.

We also believe that young workers should not be singled out for second class treatment. Show me the supermarket which gives discounts to young people or the landlord who reduces the rent.

We intend to build on what we have achieved - we owe it to the low paid and to our young people.

Our Campaign for a Living Wage kicks off in Newcastle on 10 April. With the support of many other trade unions and youth and community organisations, we have organised a march, a concert in the Arena featuring Ash, the Divine Comedy, Space, Travis and Fungus and free family entertainment in a huge marquee.

We have put our money where our mouth is - the concert ticket prices have been pegged at 3 so we can also have fun while we campaign.

That campaign is already gathering support from all sorts of organisations and it will continue to grow. I only hope it does not take another 30 years.


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