BTR leads British moves against works councils

Some of Britain's biggest conglomerates are secretly plotting to undermine the power of European works councils, a document leaked to the Inde- pendent reveals.

Directors at BTR have decided that a single council for the whole company would be "large, complex and irrelevant other than to some politically- motivated union groups". Under European law the council is designed to act as a forum for consulting and informing employees over strategy.

Minutes of a meeting held at Windsor disclose BTR management's belief that such a body would also be "difficult to manage and control and would be inviting groups together whom we would want to keep apart". The document says that information will be exchanged at a meeting with other like-minded organisations such as Hanson, Tomkins, American Brands and Cookson. Some of the companies are identified with the secretive European Works Council Study Group, which is made up largely of conglomerates keen to minimise the impact of the legislation.

At the BTR meeting, held on 14 November last year, directors opted for a "simple and minimalist" approach, with works councils established to cover "product groupings" on an individual site basis. The conglomerate is made up of five main commercial interests: industrial products, transport, construction, electrical systems and consumer products. The legal obligation to provide "transnational information" would be catered for by the attendance at the meetings once a year by a representative of the BTR parent group.

All companies with 1,000 employees in European Union countries, with 150 in each of two member states, must set up a works council. They are able to establish a structure on a voluntary basis until 22 September, after which it will be strictly circumscribed by a European directive. Britain's opt-out from the social chapter of the Maastricht Treaty does not exempt UK-based multinationals from the law, but allows companies to exclude UK workers. None has so far registered its intention to do so.

The TUC was dismayed by the contents of the BTR document. Nick Clark, the TUC's works council specialist, argued that many companies had been far more positive about the legislation in order to tailor the structure to accommodate both the needs of the business and the aspirations of the workforce.

He accused BTR and other conglomerates of operating "by stealth". He said: "The attitude seems to undermine the intention of the directive and subvert its spirit. What have they got to hide? What are they afraid their workers will find out?"

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk