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TUC joins European Unionists in call for governments to back down

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The TUC and its equivalents in Spain, Germany and Ireland will call on their respective governments to drop objections to the EU draft Directive on Information and Consultation at the EU Social Affairs Council this Tuesday (17 October).

The union organisations launched a joint statement on Friday calling on the UK, Spanish, German and Irish governments to stop blocking progress on the Directive which, if made law, would give all European workers in organisations with more than 50 employees the right to be consulted on major changes at work. The statement is being launched in advance of discussions on the Directive at the EU Social Affairs Council meeting on Tuesday (17 October) in Luxembourg.

The Directive would give 65% of the UK workforce the right to be consulted on issues such as mergers, major re-organisations and redundancies. It would mean an end to shock redundancy announcements such as those at Coats Viyella and Biwater Industries last month. It would have meant BMW could not have sold Rover earlier this year without consulting the workforce.

Many European countries already have legal commitments on workplace consultation through works councils. Unions are arguing that the continued opposition to the Directive means UK workers, the least regulated in Europe, are being treated like second class citizens. European trade unions are also concerned that the continued lower status of UK workers makes investment in the UK a cheaper option.

The three governments are opposing the Directive's introduction on the grounds that it is an unnecessary burden on business. But as the Directive covers only organisations with more than 50 workers, it would affect only 2.6% of UK employers.

TUC General Secretary John Monks said: "The UK has the highest rate of mergers and takeovers in Europe – probably because the UK workforce is seen as expendable. Maintaining a position where it is easy to dismiss British workers seems a contradictory way of attracting inward investment. It is simply not fair that the first casualties of a drop in profits in multinational companies are so often UK workers. It is high time the UK government ended its opposition to this Directive."

The Directive on Information and Consultation has been in the pipeline for two years. The Social Affairs Council will decide next week whether or not it should be pushed forward. If the Directive is moved on and goes to a vote, it would be carried through by the qualified majority voting system. The 15 EU member states have a total of 87 votes of which 62 in favour are needed. The UK, Germany and Spain have a total of 28 votes between them.

The signatories to the statement are: the TUC, the Spanish confederations UGT and CCOO, the German DGB and the DAG (the German white collar confederation), and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).

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