UK-US power pact by unions

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The Independent Online
Unions representing 350,000 electricity workers in Britain and the US yesterday forged an unprecented transatlantic pact which could result in joint co-ordination of collective bargaining and industrial action.

The move is designed to mirror the fast-changing structure of the power industry which has seen seven of the UK's 12 regional electricity companies taken over by US utilities. An eighth, Eastern, is the subject of an agreed pounds 4.06bn bid by the Oregon-based PacifiCorp.

The solidarity pact, agreed at a meeting in Washington of union leaders from the two countries, is likely to see collective discussions at parent company level of issues affecting the entire workforce.

In particular, the British unions will advise their US counterparts on how to handle the liberalisation of the industry which is now spreading across the Atlantic and is likely to involve similar job cuts to those witnessed here following electricity privatisation.

Meanwhile, the US unions will provide advise to UK unions on the employment records and policies of the US parent companies. Kenneth Zinn, North American co-ordinator of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers Unions, said industrial action by workers in one country in support of those employed by the same company in another could not be ruled out.

He also indicated there would be close liaison over terms and conditions of employment.

``When we enter collective bargaining negotiations, it is useful to know what the position is with workers in other parts of the business."