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Minimum wage set to increase

Letter from Westminster - 20 September 2004

Next Friday, over one million low paid workers will get an 8% pay rise. This comes on top of a 7% boost last year, twice the average growth in earnings. Taken together, these increases represent an important step-change in Labour's National Minimum Wage.

Now in its fifth year, the minimum wage has made a very substantial difference for over 140,000 people in the South West by providing protection from exploitative rates of pay without damaging workers' employment prospects. A policy described as 'extreme and absurd' by Tory Leader, Michael Howard, and treated with suspicion by the Lib Dems, has now been shown to be a huge success.

Employment is up, and is rising fastest in the areas where it was previously worst; long-term unemployment is down by three-quarters; and long-term youth unemployment has been virtually eradicated. These achievements, alongside measures to ensure that work pays - like the minimum wage and tax credits - are helping us to win our battle against poverty.

I am delighted that on top of next week's 8% uprating, sixteen and seventeen year olds will be legally entitled to a minimum wage for the first time. This will be set at £3 in order to bring an end to the most exploitative rates of pay, while ensuring that young people are not discouraged from participating in education and training.

If you think this means that you, or someone you know, should get a pay rise or you would like more information or advice on the minimum wage contact the Minimum Wage Hotline on 0845 6000 678.

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