Bosses complain about labour bill

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THE GOVERNMENT is shifting the balance of power much too far towards unions by effectively proposing a ban on dismissing strikers, according to the leaders of nearly 5,700 manufacturing companies.

Ministers are being urged to think again about the Employment Relations Bill, which gives new rights to employees taking official industrial action. The Engineering Employers' Federation is calling on ministers to phase in the legislation over 18 months and warns that it could be "very damaging" to small and medium-sized companies. A letter from the federation to Lord Falconer of Thoroton the Cabinet Office minister, expresses particular concern about a proposal which makes it unlawful to dismiss strikers before eight weeks of industrial action has elapsed.

David Yeandle, the head of employment affairs at the federation, wrote that only 4 per cent of strikes in 1997 lasted more than eight weeks and therefore the proposed act would in effect make it unlawful to sack strikers. In his letter Mr Yeandle argues that most companies would either go bankrupt or suffer serious financial damage long before the eight week deadline.

He claimed that the proposal had "come from nowhere" and went way beyond the provisions that were set out in the Fairness at Work white paper published last year.