Hanson backs EU works councils

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Hanson Group, one of the Conservative Party's biggest financial backers, yesterday ignored the Government's opt-out from the Maastricht Treaty and included British workers in plans for European works councils.

Initially reluctant to establish European-wide systems of consultation for employees, Hanson has decided to create councils in its operating companies before a deadline expires in 10 days. Big multi-nationals must set up such structures by 22 September or face imposition from Brussels.

The opt-out from the treaty would have allowed the company to exclude UK employees, but the board has decided to include them.

All 27 British-based multinationals which have so far announced plans for works councils have failed to take advantage of the escape clause negotiated by John Major. Companies with 1,000 employees in the EU and 150 in two member states have to set up councils.

Referring to a council set up at Hanson Brick, Allan Black, national officer at the GMB general union, said he was pleased the group had "recognised the value of this international dialogue". He said the company had accepted that workers and managers could solve many issues and problems before they arose.

"Works councils are now an established form of industrial relations. The Government can barely continue with their 'opt-out' when Tory flagships such as Hanson are signing Euro deals with the GMB."

According to the conglomerate's latest reports and accounts, a donation of pounds 100,000 was made in the year to September 1995.

A spokesman for Hanson said that decisions to establish consultation processes under the European directive had been made by individual operating companies. He was unaware that the group had changed its mind on the issue.

In a statement, Hanson Brick said its employee forum would focus principally on the company's performance and overall strategy.

Matters to be discussed might include changes in corporate structure, the economic and financial situation and the competitive position. Also to be revealed at the works council would be important plans for production, sales and employment. Representatives on the council would also be informed about health and safety, training policy, new products and the environment.