European industrialists attack Social Charter

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The Independent Online
A GROUP of leading European industrialists yesterday launched an all-out attack on the Social Charter, warning that Europe would remain trapped in a cycle of low growth and rising unemployment unless wage costs were lowered, labour markets made more flexible and the burden of red tape slashed.

The call came in a report to governments and the President of the European Commission, Jacques Delors, from the 40 top businessmen who make up the European Round Table. They include Sir Denys Henderson of ICI, David Simon of BP, Edzard Reuter of Daimler-Benz and Jan Timmer of Philips.

The report, Beating the Crisis, A Charter for Europe's Industrial Future, is timed to influence next week's European summit, which will discuss Mr Delors' white paper on growth, competitiveness and employment. It argues that labour markets must be made more transparent and further deregulated by getting rid of 'unnecessary regulations' governing minimum wages and working hours and conditions.

The central message of the report - that unemployment can be tackled only through economic growth and that growth can be achieved only through increased competitiveness - is one that Mr Delors has begun to take on board. However, the EC President is certain to balk at the attack on employment rights.

According to unpublished research by Unice, the European employers' organisation, the EU's share of world trade has fallen from 24 to 18 per cent in the past 20 years while the number of net new jobs created has been only half that in Japan and a third of that in the US.

The report recommends that EU leaders adopt a charter for industry, setting out priorities for economic recovery, and set up a European competitiveness council. Europe should aim for growth of 3.5 per cent a year and invest an additional 4 per cent worth of output - more than 200bn ecu a year - to sustain that growth.

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