Defending, Celebrating and Improving the National Minimum Wage as it reaches its 10th year

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2008 National Delegate Conference
6 February 2008

Conference is proud of the role UNISON played with other in the labour movement in the creation of the national minimum wage (NMW) which was first introduced on 1st April 1999. Conference believes that the introduction of the NMW is one of the finest achievements of Labour in Government. Since its introduction the NMW has lifted thousands out of poverty, especially women. However there is much which can be done to improve and strengthen the NMW.

From its introduction the NMW has enshrined wage discrimination against young workers in law. This was confirmed with the inclusion of exemptions within the Age Discrimination regulations allowing the age differential rates to continue. There currently exist three separate rates for the NMW, one for 16 and 17 year olds, one for those aged 18 to 21 inclusive and one for those 22 and above.

Young workers are further discriminated against by the exemption given to young apprentices (those under 19, and those over 19 but still in the first 12 months of their apprenticeship) from these rates all together.

More must also be done on enforcing the NMW and ensuring workers know and understand their rights in relation to it. Conference welcomes the increase in penalties for employers not paying the full minimum wage as an important step forward. It is essential that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is given adequate resource to carry out the enforcement. It is essential that workers know more about NMW rates, especially young workers and migrant workers who may be more vulnerable to exploitation. Conference believes that every pay slip should by law detail current NMW. It is also essential that rights in relation to unreasonable deductions from pay to get round the minimum wage should be enforced, for example the deduction of housing costs for migrant workers.

Conference believes that the 10th anniversary of the NMW is an important opportunity not only to celebrate the historic event but to campaign to improve the NMW and in particular end the age differentials.

Conference mandates the National Executive Council to work with the National Young Members Forum and others to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the National Minimum Wage, support improvements in the enforcement of the NMW and end age differential rates.