Wednesday, September 29, 1999 Published at 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
No minimum wage for Labour workers
Volunteers stewards at Labour's conference get a third of £3.60
By Political Correspondent Nick Assinder
Scores of stewards staffing the Labour party conference are being paid a third of the level of the national minimum wage, BBC News Online can exclusively reveal.
The revelation has infuriated some Labour MPs who believe the workers are being exploited by the same party which boasts about introducing the £3.60 an hour minimum wage.
They include pensioners, students, the unemployed and people who have taken leave from their full-time jobs to attend the conference.
There is no legal requirement for the stewards to be paid the wage and none of them have complained about the money they receive.
One said: "I must be mad doing this. It's a long day - but I would happily do it for nothing for the party and it's quite good fun."
But one senior Labour backbencher who asked not to be named said he was disgusted at the amount being paid.
"These people may be willing volunteers but they should still at least be paid the minimum wage. It makes the party look as if it is ignoring its own laws."
"What did they say about the minimum wage? The same as they said right through this century.
"They tried the employment argument - it would cost jobs. They tried the business argument - it would make them bankrupt. They then used the economic argument - it would cause inflation.
"They then resorted to the selfish argument - businesses wouldn't want to pay it.
"Well, businesses are paying it. Inflation is low. Unemployment is falling. There are one million job vacancies in the country.
"And two million people have had a pay rise because we believe they are worth more than poverty pay," he said.
But some delegates at the conference, while accepting the party could not afford to pay the stewards the full minimum wage, believe the system gives the party a bad image.
"I know there is nothing strictly wrong with it and the stewards all volunteered and would happily do it for nothing. It would also be very difficult for the party to pay 150 or so people £36 a day. But it just looks bad," said one.
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