Bosses fear Labour crackdown on councils

The number of companies forced to establish European works councils will double under a Labour government, according to employers' leaders.

Some 300 UK-based multinationals will be covered by the Brussels directive, compared with the present 150 because a Blair administration is expected to sign up to the Social Chapter of the Maastricht Treaty.

The full impact of Labour policy will surprise British companies, many of which are strongly suspicious of works councils, and could damage Mr Blair's attempts to make his party appear business-friendly.

Peter Reid, an employment law specialist at the federation, yesterday pointed out that under the Social Chapter British workers would be included in the count to decide whether firms were big enough to be covered by the directive. All companies with 1,000 staff in the European Union with at least 150 in each of two countries have to set up legally backed structures to consult and inform employees. At the moment only workers in Continental EU countries are used in the calculation.

Mr Reid said that while Britain was currently third in the league table of European economies affected by the law, Labour policy would put the UK at the top because of the existence of a large number of medium-sized firms.

The federation yesterday pointed out that there were just 100 working days left before companies which met the present conditions could establish a voluntary structure. After 22 September, UK-based multinationals will have to enter legally backed negotiations to establish the structures.

If a company refuses to co-operate, then employee representatives can apply for a council to be established within six months of the deadline.

If genuine negotiations prove fruitless, a works council structure will be imposed in September 1999.

In informal contacts with the Labour Party Mr Reid believes he has won assurances that companies would be given a fresh deadline to reach a voluntary agreement. The federation has asked for a "breathing space" of up to two years.

A future Labour government would also have to introduce its own laws on how negotiations should take place and the exact structure of works councils. Till then companies can opt to be "headquartered" for the purpose of works council legislation in any country it found the most favourable.

Under the status quo. German laws were among the most strict, providing for imprisonment where there was unconstitutional interference with the business of works councils. The law in Ireland appeared to be the most liberal.

The federation official said that some British businesses were facing a "very messy" time after 22 September. He estimated that some 20 companies did not appreciate the full impact of the legislation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn