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TUC: &quotDon’t Keep Us In The Dark”


The first UK workers to learn of job losses when they received text messages on their mobile phones make the case for greater information and consultation rights for UK workers, says the TUC in a new report out on Wednesday.

All too often, employers are keeping their workers in the dark about job cuts and closures, says the TUC, as it calls on the UK government to end its opposition to the draft European directive on information and consultation.

Elsewhere in Europe, employers are forced by law to talk to their workforce about any planned closures or mergers, but when job losses are announced in the UK, the news frequently comes as bolt from the blue to the workforce, says the TUC report.

The report, Don’t keep us in the dark gives examples of UK workers who discovered their jobs were to go when listening to the radio.

Later today (Wednesday), UK trade unionists will be demonstrating for better information and consultation rights for UK workers as they take part in a European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) – organised demonstration in Nice ahead of tomorrow’s Inter-Governmental Conference. The marchers from TUC-affiliated unions will be carrying banners and flags with the message “Stop blocking workers’ rights.”

The TUC report, says that aside from the draft directive, UK workers could also find themselves better consulted on major issues if the Charter of Fundamental Rights were incorporated into a new European Treaty.

To date, a number of European governments, including the UK, have been adamant that the Charter must be unbinding, and they have also stalled all efforts to kickstart the draft directive.

The draft 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 earlier in the year, and would have meant BMW could not have sold Rover without consulting the workforce.

TUC General Secretary John Monks said: “More mergers and takeovers take place in the UK than anywhere else in Europe. Hardly surprising when you consider that UK workers are the cheapest and easiest to get rid of. Often the first sign that a multinational company is in trouble is when it starts to announce major job losses in the UK. But workers here shouldn’t be kept in the dark. UK employers should respect the dedication and hard work of their employees enough to consult and inform them about change in good time, rather than letting them discover their jobs are to go by hearing about it on the radio, or by reading about it in a newspaper.”

Don’t keep us in the dark contains a number of examples illustrating the poor levels of information and consultation in the UK:

  • At the end of last year, Michelin announced plans to reduce their European workforce by 7,500 over the next three years. Then in January this year, the union at the Stoke plant, the Transport and General Workers Union (T&GWU), learned during pay negotiations that 573 jobs needed to go in order to cuts costs and to secure the long term future of the site. This the union accepted, along with changed working patterns and less pay, in order to safeguard jobs. Then on 17 October came the bolt from the blue. All light van and car tyre manufacture was to cease, as was the rubber mix operation, with the loss of an additional 950 jobs. The union convenor learnt the devasting news an hour before the management broke the news to the shop floor, and workers absent because their shift was yet to start, heard the news on Signal Radio, and BBC Radio Stoke, and by reading The Evening Sentinel.
  • The first textiles union KFAT knew about Coats Viyella’s sell-off plans were when the union press office took a call from a BBC reporter wanting comment on the news just released to the City, concerning the future of 8,500 workers. So before any discussions had taken place with the workforce, the news was all over local and national TV and radio. Many of the workers at CV’s Hinckley site, discovered the sell-off plans when their partners, seeing the news on Teletext, sent text messages on their mobile phones.
  • Earlier this year when the France-based multinational, Saint Gobain, purchased the Biwater Clay Cross Company – which makes ductile iron pipes for the water industry, it had some shocking news for the workers in Derbyshire. Forty five minutes after the sale was announced, Saint Gobain said they would be closing the Clay Cross plant with the loss of 700 jobs. Neither the workforce nor representatives of the trade union, the GMB, were consulted at any stage.

Don’t keep us in the dark cites the situation in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and France, which guarantees workers in those countries the right, through works councils, to be consulted on a wide range of issues including training plans, the introduction of new technology, mergers, closures, working time, and health and safety.

The TUC argues that continued government opposition to the draft directive means that UK workers, the least regulated in Europe, are being treated like second class citizens.

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