Saturday, April 10, 1999 Published at 21:18 GMT 22:18 UK
Protesters demand 'living wage'
Half the expected number attended the march
Thousands of people in Gateshead on Tyneside have taken part in a rally demanding an increase in the minimum wage.
A national minimum hourly rate of £3.60 for adults and £3 for 18- to 21-year-olds was introduced on 1 April - the first minimum wage in British history.
"Whilst we are delighted that we have for the first time, after a 100-year battle to get it, a minimum wage, that level is far, far too low," said Unison's general secretary, Rodney Bickerstaffe, who took part in the march.
He said the north east was chosen because it was an area of low pay.
The Federation of Small Businesses said Mr Bickerstaffe was "barking up the wrong tree" by calling for an increase in the minimum wage.
FSB employment spokesman Bernard Juby said: "Mr Bickerstaffe should realise that the money for the wages has to come from somewhere. It's cloud-cuckoo land to believe that it simply grows on trees."
Hairdressers losing jobs
The government is unlikely to take a decision on whether or not to raise the minimum wage until it is clear how many jobs have been lost as a result of its introduction.
Some predictions suggested that as many as 80,000 low paid workers could be laid off by employers who could not afford the £3.60 rate. Early indications suggest these figures were too high.
But unions have already begun to report that workers in some industries are losing their jobs, particularly in hairdressing.
This will make embarrassing reading for the government, because hairdressers, along with other vulnerable groups like those working in security, were supposed to be the primary beneficiaries of the new rate.
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