EC consultation law for smaller firms more likely

Opposition
to a European right to consultation for all staff in medium and larger
companies has weakened and a law looks likely this year, sources in Brussels
have indicated.

"There
is general political agreement [among members of the social affairs council]
for the principle of an employee consultation law," said Peter Reid, an
independent consultant on European works councils. "Germany has backed
off. There is now no longer a blocking minority."

The
reports follow the extraordinary meeting of the Employment and Social Policy
Council in December where French labour minister Elisabeth Guigou said that the
necessary majority for the proposal would be achieved during the Swedish
Presidency, running from January to June.

Germany
and the UK have blocked the directive, drafted by the European Commission in
1998, which would introduce compulsory consultation in firms with more than 50
staff.

But
the CBI said reports of the end to the blocking minority are often stirred up
by those in favour of the directive. "Those who have a vested interest in
seeing the blocking minority disappear have attempted many times to suggest
that it is about to happen," said Susan Anderson, head of HR policy at the
CBI. "Certainly the French were very eager for the directive to get through."

The
Government and the CBI have argued that the proposed law breaches the EU
principle of subsidiarity, which says that matters should be dealt with at the
lowest level.

At
national level the DTI is pushing for a stronger UK law on consultation over redundancies.

All
British trade unions support the European Directive. Richard Fulham, European
officer for the AEEU, said "Good companies inform and consult on important
business matters. Those businesses will have very little to fear."

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