By Michael Heggie
National minimum wage rates are to rise in October, with the minimum rate for workers aged 21 and over reaching £5.93 an hour and a minimum for apprentices set for the first time.
The rise in each category is around 2%, and as previously promised the threshold for adults has been reduced from 22 to 21 years old.
The government also accepted a recommendation from the Low Pay Commission (LPC) to introduce an apprentice minimum wage of £2.50 per hour, which will apply to apprentices under 19 years old.
LPC chairman David Norgrove said: “We are pleased that the government has again accepted the Commission’s recommendations. The introduction of an apprentice rate marks an important extension to minimum wage protection across the UK.”
The new rules also mean that the rate is increasing for 18 to 20-year-olds from £4.83 to £4.92 an hour.
However, the British Retail Consortium Director General (NRC), have suggested that the best way to protect wages is by preserving jobs and keeping people in work.
British Retail Consortium Director General Stephen Robertson said: “There’s a delicate compromise between higher wages and more jobs, but the best protection for wages is preserving jobs to keep people working.
“But consumer confidence is fragile, while the impact of the government cuts and nervousness about the housing market are creating a lot of uncertainty.
“Trading conditions are tough. Higher costs such as next April’s National Insurance increase will pile on even more pressure. Even a small increase in 2011′s minimum wage could choke off retailers’ vital potential to create new jobs.”
Today’s increase in the minimum wage comes after Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray announced plans to boost public sector workers’ pay to more than £7 an hour.
Gray will try to introduce the new minimum wage level, if the party is elected in next year’s Scottish election.
Despite tough spending cuts on the horizon, he told his party’s UK conference that the lowest paid workers must be protected: “I want to see excessive salaries and bonuses at the very top end of the Scottish public sector scaled back.
“But those at the bottom of the pay scales must be protected. That is why I will introduce a Scottish Living wage, of over £7 per hour.
“In a 21st century Scotland no one who does a fair day’s work should receive less than a fair days pay. In a Labour Scotland we will make sure that no one does.”
These local residents told Edinburgh Napier News what they think about the Minimum Wage.
Robert Duncan, 22 – “The minimum wage should definitely be above £6.”
Susie Wilson, 57 – “£5.93 seems about right. We have to keep the economy in mind when talking about the minimum wage. There are some dodgy ways of looking at inflation nowadays, so the economy should be our focus when considering how much it should go up.”
Alistair Gibb, 43 – “It isn’t an issue I spend a lot of time thinking about, but I would find that hard to live on. At least £6 makes sense to me.”