Call for change in law in wake of Glaxo deal

Unions have renewed their call for a tougher European law on employee
consultation after receiving just three days’ notice of the Glaxo Wellcome and
Smith-Kline Beecham merger. The new global pharmaceuticals giant is likely to
shed thousands of jobs.

Works council representatives were notified on Friday 14 January – the same
day as newspaper reports were published anticipating the deal. The formal
announcement was made on the following Monday.

Companies are required to consult with works councils under an EU directive.
But unions say the directive fails to stipulate a time scale for consultation
process.

"Being told after all the decisions have been made is not much
use," said Nick Clark, the TUC’s EU specialist.

"Unless you are told in advance you cannot express a view with any
expectation of influencing the outcome."

Clark called for a time frame to be written into the European Works Council
Directive 1996.

All European trade union federations are lobbying the European Commission
for a tougher law on consultation. The commission has drafted a directive,
currently deferred, which would impose sanctions on firms for failing to
consult on major restructurings.

"At the moment the directive doesn’t really have teeth. Not saying when
you have to consult makes the whole thing a bit of a joke," said Clark.

Roger Lyons, general secretary of the Manufacturing Science Finance union,
said, "There is an obsession about secrecy in British management although
they are very good at leaking to the press. We often read things first in the
newspapers."

It is feared the merger will lead to thousands of job losses, with HR jobs
likely to be hit, although both firms say it is too early to predict exact
numbers.

Louise Sibley, SmithKline Beecham’s European director of communications,
said companies are unable to consult earlier because stock exchange regulations
force companies to inform shareholders before employees.

By Helen Rowe

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