TUC calls for business and union compromises

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The union movement has abandoned any ambition to tie companies down to complex employment law, according to TUC general secretary John Monks.

Unions will continue to demand the introduction of a minimum wage, but would seek to negotiate other minimum standards in a way which contributed to business success, Mr Monks told a City audience yesterday.

In a speech to a TUC-sponsored seminar on "stakeholding", Mr Monks said: "The way that European business leaders and trade unions have been able to talk sensibly and agree provisions for parental leave show there is a middle way between deregulation and overly bureaucratic red tape. You can call it social partnership or stakeholding, or simply good old-fashioned British compromise but it offers the best hope for the future."

While he stressed the need to build on the British tradition of voluntary agreement, Mr Monks pointed out that European law was already forcing the idea of "social partnership" on some 150 British multinationals through a European directive on works councils.

He pointed out that despite the UK opt-out from the social chapter of the Maastricht Treaty, British-based groups were including UK workers on the councils.

Mr Monks acknowledged that the election of a Labour government would end the opt-out and increase the number of companies covered by the directive. All multinationals with 1,000 employees in the European Union with at least 150 in each of two, have to set up a council after 22 September on request from their workforce. Without the opt-out, British employees would have to be included in the calculation.

The TUC leader coupled his call for compromise with a warning that there was growing dissatisfaction with the way companies are run in Britain. Many under-performed and under-invested and were under intense pressure from institutional investors to ensure a high share price, he claimed.