Corus debacle renews consultation demands

The
announcement of 6,050 redundancies by steel giant Corus has put the Government
under pressure to improve employee consultation rights and struck a blow to the
UK’s voluntary partnership approach to industrial relations.

The
Anglo-Dutch company failed to consult with its workforce over the job losses
and only informed them on the same day as the cuts were made public. 

Both
politicians and unions reacted angrily to the lack of communication and have
called on the Government to strengthen employee rights.

In
a Commons debate last week, Labour MP and former minister Tony Lloyd said,
"It would be a tragedy if we turned our backs on the clear need for change
following the terrible experiences of British workers in recent months."

The
job cuts have also intensified calls for the Government to drop its opposition
to a European directive that would ensure consultation.  

But
Digby Jones, director-general of the CBI, said, "Ministers are right to
stand firm against a proposed EU directive on consultation, which would cover
all major decisions on an unworkable one size fits all basis."

Other
UK manufacturing em-ployers blame job losses and poor consultation on the UK’s
economic climate. Bruce Warman, head of personnel at Vauxhall Motors said,
"The key to industrial relations is to engage with employees to improve
productivity but this cannot be done at crisis time. The decision at Corus was
based on commercial reality."

Trade
and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers has announced plans to review UK
arrangement affecting collective redundancies.

The
1999 European works council regulations, backed by the Government, were
intended to ensure trans-national firms consult staff. But last week industry
minister Alan Johnson said, "Although it’s recent, we must review that
measure be- cause it hasn’t worked sufficiently."

By
Mike Broad 

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