The dramatic sale and break-up of Rover by BMW has sparked calls for more consultation rights for staff in the UK.
The Industrial Society last week called for a stronger law, arguing that a loophole must be closed.
Unions backed the call, and urged the Government to end its opposition to planned European measures.
Industrial Society chief executive Will Hutton complained that under UK law consultation on business transfers do not have to take place when, as in the sale of Rover to Alchemy, it is conducted through a sale of shares.
“UK legislation on consultation clearly has to be reviewed,” he said. “It must be regarded as weak, given what has happened and given the comparison with German law.”
The society will conduct its own review and consult with relevant parties. Hutton, who is highly influential in the Labour party, will then draw up proposals for change.
The MSF union has already lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission, arguing that British law is in breach of the Collective Redundancies directive.
Roger Lyons, general secretary of the MSF, slammed Tony Blair and Stephen Byers for caving in to the business lobby by opposing planned European laws.
“The Government is obviously naive if it believes businesses act in the interest of the public good. They act in their own interest, and that is why we need to have regulation of multinationals, and we need to have planned regulation across the European Community.
“If a disaster like Rover is to be avoided in the future we must have proper partnership consultations to give us an opportunity to seek alternatives to mass redundancy.”
In the Rover sale Byers and Blair were in the same position as the employees in knowing nothing about BMW’s plans, despite the pledge of £152m government money to help redevelopment of Longbridge.
Labour MPs and trade union leaders have continually expressed surprise that ministers have opposed European consultation rights (see p1).
Union count is 9,500
• The MSF union has claimed that up to 9,500 Rover jobs are at risk. It said an internal source revealed that redundancies spread across the company could see 3,500 jobs go at the Longbridge plant, 1,500 at Swindon and 2,000 at the R&D centre at Gaydon in Warwicksire.
By Philip Whiteley