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Employers unite against further employment legislation

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British and Italian employers have formed an alliance in a bid to stave off further “heavy handed” EU laws on employment and social affairs. Britain’s CBI and Italy’s Confindustria met prime ministers Blair and Berlusconi this week to present a joint statement on labour market policy, timed to influence the EU summit in Seville.

The statement says current EU directives provide a “more than adequate” regulatory framework for the European labour market, covering everything from discrimination to working hours. It argues that politicians at the Seville summit must now “put national governments back in the driving seat” and reject calls for further intervention.

The statement says the Commission has “punished” firms by continuing to push through regulation when talks between employers and unions have failed to produce agreement. Digby Jones, CBI Director-General, said: “Business is losing faith in the commitment of the Commission and some national governments to competitiveness and job creation. The Commission is more bent on over-protecting people in work than opening up labour markets to the jobless, in particular female workers, the young, ethnic minorities and those who need flexibility in how they work.”

Stefano Parisi, Director-General of Confindustria, added: “The Commission remains too keen on one-size-fits-all approaches that damage job creation. Top down legislative intervention will not deliver the employment growth that Europe needs.”

The CBI and Confindustria are particularly concerned by plans to give temporary agency workers comparable remuneration with permanent staff, even after only a few weeks. They argue that this would remove incentives to take on temps because of administrative complexity.

Digby Jones said: “Europe’s labour markets are all very different. Some countries need to improve the mobility of labour while others have problems with skill shortages. This diversity means that member states, not the EU, must take responsibility for labour market reform and make the most of the competitive environment this will produce. Employers are constantly on the defensive, trying to see off the latest Commission proposals to restrict the way we do business. The Commission’s Employment and Social Affairs Directorate takes suggestions from trade unions and asks employers to negotiate with a gun to their heads. A directive emerges that harks back to an outdated doctrine that is totally unsuited to a 21st century global economy.”


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