A 10p rise in the minimum wage comes into force this month, Further, it seems that the Low Pay Commission will now recommend annual increases, in October each year.

The good news is that, unlike last year, we have not seen a massive, unexpected and politically motivated 10% rise. Rather we received over 12 months warning, so allowing industry to plan sensibly for its introduction.

As to annual increases, historically this industry has used February as a pay review date – a legacy of the much missed Laundry Wages Council.

However, employers will move rapidly to October for in in-company pay reviews to ensure that they are not disadvantaged by having to review rates in both February and October. The TSA’s employment advisory service run by Robin Rhodes has helped many members to make this important change.

So, what are the future implications? Increased trade union militancy seems likely and we will almost certainly see more rights for trade unions emerging in the new Employment Act.

Trade union pressure is unlikely to rest at recognition and the National Minimum Wage seems to me a likely target. It appeals to a trade union agenda of broadening membership and demonstrating effectiveness, but it might also provide a rare and valuable opportunity for New Labour to show that it remains true to the aspirations of its traditional voter as well as “middle England”.

The current rise brings the rate to £4.20 per hour for workers over 22, and to £3.60 for those aged 18 to 21.There is no minimum for the under 18s.

For the future, a £5 adult rate cannot be excluded from the realms of possibility. Abolition of the 18 to 21 year old lower rate is almost inevitable with pressure even for the new minimum rate to take effect from age 16.

Increases to the National Minimum Wage are, in my view, a double-edged sword. Imple- mented without warning they place an unacceptable burden on employers working in a highly competitive, low-margin industry.

But if we have adequate notice of rises and they are properly planned, we can minimise the effect on competitiveness. Further, we could see a positive effect on staff recruitment and retention in our traditionally low-paid industry since wage differentials between our sector and others with which we compete for staff might reduce.

Add training and career development opportunities and we might just see a sea change in employment in our industry.