UK out on its own over workers’ consultation

A
crucial vote in Europe next month is likely to force employers in the UK to
consult their workforce in detail about redundancies and mergers much earlier
or face harsh penalties.

Employment
experts believe the European Council of Ministers is poised to accept the EU
directive on 11 June. It will force all companies with more than 50 staff to
consult their workforce on redundancies and the sale of subsidiaries.

If
an agreement is reached, it could be formally adopted by the end of this year
and implemented across Europe as early as 2004.

Bruce
Warman, HR director for Vauxhall, believes the directive would be extremely
damaging to employers in the UK. “There would be major implications. It is a
‘one-size-fits-all’ approach based on the European social model which will be
force-fed to UK employers,” he said. “Current consultation arrangements, which
may work well, will be ignored. It would be extremely damaging.”

It
is likely that employers will have to provide unions or workers’
representatives with much more detailed information on their firm’s financial
position and potential changes that will affect the workforce.

Vance
Kearney, HR vice-president of Oracle, said, “We might not like it but we would
manage.”

Employment
consultant Peter Reid and Sue Gibas, secretary general of the European HR
Network, claim that Ireland, Germany, and Denmark have withdrawn their
opposition.

A
CBI spokesman said, “We have no reason at this point to think the blocking
minority is under threat.”

Directive
would force firms to reveal finances

The
draft European directive on information and consultation requires employers to
inform and consult with employees on:


The financial state of the organisation and any reasonably foreseeable
developments that might affect it


Any changes being contemplated that will affect employment, including
redundancies, restructuring, business sales


Proposed changes in terms and conditions of employment


Employers who breach the directive could have to pay 90 days’ wages to every
employee who has not been consulted properly

By
Ben Willmott

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