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