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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 27 March 2006

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Usdaw warmly welcomes rise in minimum wage

RETAIL union Usdaw has warmly welcomed a 30p rise in the minimum wage as good news for union members and the future growth of a sector employing 2.7 million people. The latest increase, which comes into force in October, will take the minimum wage up from £5.05 an hour to £5.35 for workers over 21 with a 20p an hour rise for staff aged 18 - 21 who will get £4.45.

"This Government has its critics but our members are well aware that this latest increase is due to the principled commitment of Ministers and Labour MPs who supported the idea of a basic living wage. The introduction of a minimum wage has made a real difference to the living standards of many of our members without harming the massive growth of the retail sector over the last decade. There is no evidence that these sorts of increases to the minimum wage have had any negative impact on the retail sector and most retailers pay well above this rate because they recognise well paid staff are absent less and are more productive. We'll continue to discuss with employers the impact of the minimum wage seeking raises above that figure, but we would remind employers that this rise will only cost them around £11 a week for an employee working 37 hours.
" says Usdaw general secretary John Hannett.

Usdaw is particularly pleased that the minimum wage for workers aged 16 and 17 will also go up 30p to £3.30 an hour.

"The minimum wage was only brought in for these very vulnerable workers because Usdaw did its research finding some terrible examples of sheer exploitation of 16 and 17 year olds by employers. We took our evidence to the Low Pay Commission who accepted that the extension of the minimum wage to very young workers would offer them some protection so this latest increase is fantastic news for the next generation of retail workers."


On the other hand small businesses, increasingly, are being hit by all the new legislation and rules introduced by this government and many are coming ever closer to closure. "The latest pay rise might be good for employees, but are crippling businesses’ development and closing down many who are just starting out. Some, as does Usdaw, say that small businesses, who can’t afford to pay workers more, should close. What they don't seem to realize is that the cash the businesses would use to fund the pay rises are being swallowed up in red tape and unnecessary legislation and hidden taxation. Another sting in the tail is envisaged in recent governmental brainstorming, a compulsory pension scheme for all businesses to pay into. If this, on top of the already double employer contributions comes into force it is very likely that most small businesses and lots of large businesses will go under. We are heading for a UK which has a plethora of employment rights but no jobs! Sadly, whilst businesses understand that pay rises are needed, what groups like Usdaw do not take into consideration is that other forces are driving the UK ever closer to the edge of financial collapse." said a local business spokesman Ian White.

What do you our readers think?

15% OF LAW FIRMS COULD DISAPPEAR IN THE NEXT 18 MONTHS

21st CENTURY Business launches to provide legal firms with a one-stop-shop for business development, a first in the UK.  At a time of immense change, research indicates that up to 15% of North West legal practices could face huge difficulties and even disappear altogether if they do not prepare for the competitive landscape ahead, as set out in the government's White Paper on the future regulation of the industry.

The research has been carried out by 21st Century Business, the brain child of husband and wife team Jayne and Christopher Allman, which this week launched to offer law firms a one-stop-shop for business development, with the objective of helping them to survive, grow and prosper and replace some of the perceived mystique, elitism and lack of transparency over costs and complaints.

The government's recent legal services review states that going forward law firms must maintain the highest professional standards whilst adopting a keen business approach and will only succeed if they adopt modern methods, offer a wider range of services and above all, keep their clients as the focus of their attention - customer excellence is key.

"Currently, lawyers sell on technical ability but consumers have no way of assessing this, which is why they buy based on the level of customer care and service they receive," says Jayne Allman, director, 21st Century Business.

21st Century Business believes that one of the services it is now offering, a business 'health check',  is the first of its kind in the UK specifically for lawyers and will make available the advice that law firms will seek in order to adapt to the suggested reforms.

It will offer a wide range of services including everything from marketing, communications and web development, to IT services, advice on customer excellence, financial and risk management, managing staff and even administration support. Advice will be delivered by specialists, such Ex BBC newsreader and broadcaster Martin Henfield, who will provide media training and advice on making business presentations.

"The structure of 21st Century Business looks very different to those of, for example, a local Business Link, or a firm of management consultants; it is made up of experts who work for themselves and can provide a strategic service but without any of the overheads of a large management consultancy practice and therefore the corresponding fee levels

We believe we are the first in the UK to offer such a service in this unique format. With experts covering the entire business spectrum we can look at the big picture, bringing them together, in one place, with one common agenda to add value to the firms' established worth.  It's our aim to allow lawyers to continue doing what they do best, practicing the law, but in an increasingly business savvy world, 21st Century Business can advise firms on how to remain competitive, survive in their market place, better market themselves and become much more customer focussed - thus increasing revenues.  Firms can't afford to simply do nothing - they must adapt to 21st century methods of working or risk being one of the 15% to disappear. Consumers vote with their feet," said Jayne Allman, director, 21st Century Business.

Partners from the region's law firms can attend one of two events held by 21st Century Business on 25 April, 2006 entitled "The Future of Legal Services : put your firm on the 'winning' side." The morning session will be held at the Manchester Science and Industry Museum between 07.30 and 09.30hrs or the evening session will be held at the Marriott Worsley Park Hotel in Worsley between 17.00 and 19.00hrs.

Interested parties should contact Julie Courtney at Type-IT Events Management on 01204 590327.

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