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Companies need freedom to communicate with staff, says CBI chief


Digby Jones, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry has re-stated the CBI’s opposition to EU plans to change policies on information and consultation in the workplace on the grounds that they will harm growth and creation of new jobs in the UK.

Speaking just before Christmas in the annual CBI New Year’s message, Digby Jones said he will continue supporting the government’s opposition to an EU directive on information and consultation. “A one-size-fits-all policy for every business employing more than 50 people is exactly the type of Brussels initiative that will hinder UK growth, investment and job creation. In supporting the right for UK HR Departments to devise policies for consultation and communication independently, Digby Jones said: “Companies need the freedom to communicate with staff in ways that reflect national and local customs and practise. Europe-wide harmonisation is a flawed idea that is contrary to the UK’s best interest.”

He added: “The proposed directive relating to plant-level arrangements would not have changed the reality of global restructuring at Longbridge, Dagenham or Luton. What is planned is out of step with the key role that Britain plays in the global economy.”

Key to the New Year message was a call for greater tax incentives to encourage companies to invest across the board. Digby Jones set down a challenge to policy makers to put investment at the top of the political agenda as a key response to the predicted global economic slowdown which will see companies profits decreasing: “Economists predict that world economic growth will slow from 4.5 per cent in 2000 to around 3.5 per cent in 2001,” he said. “There is every reason to be hopeful that the global economy will avoid a hard landing. But slower economic growth leads to lower profits and less investment. So we could be storing up problems for the long-term, particularly in the hard-pressed manufacturing sector. That makes it vital for 2001 to be a year of investment. The government must offer more incentives to invest in new equipment and innovative business opportunities. It must deliver the infrastructure and skilled workforce needed to keep the UK high up the world investment league table.”

Digby Jones also said that problems with skills shortages would not be solved unless investment was vastly increased: “The UK has come a long way but the government and business need to invest far more to avert the inflationary pressure caused by skill shortages. We also need to raise levels of adult literacy and numeracy where UK standards are a national disgrace. We support all that the government is doing in this area, but there is so much more to do.”

Key CBI lobbying priorities for the New Year will include providing incentives for smaller firms to provide more training for staff so that skill shortages do not hold back company growth, extending to all companies tax credits for investment in research and development – they are currently only available to small and medium-size firms and extending capital allowances for growing businesses to stimulate investment in new equipment and help boost productivity.

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