Jobs for all `an achievable goal'

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The Independent Online
The Trades Union Congress yesterday reaffirmed its commitment to full employment.

Despite admitting in its own Budget submission to the Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, this month that full employment was not easy to define, the congress nevertheless voted for a range of measures - such as training, investment and regional agencies - to attain what it still regards as "an achievable economic and social goal".

With yesterday's unemployment figures showing 2,295,000 without jobs, the TUC's own economic unit remained reluctant to define full employment in percentage terms.

Rodney Bickerstaffe, general secretary of Unison, the health and local government union, told delegates: "When we talk about full employment it's the present and future we have in mind, not the past. We are seeking to develop a modern definition of full employment based on three building blocks."

Admitting that full employment was still portrayed as "a nostalgia for the certainties of the Fifties", he said the TUC's Nineties definition was that the only people who should be unemployed were those moving between jobs or regions (frictional unemployment). He said those still without jobs after 12 months should be offered quality work placements or training.

He said: "We know that we cannot have full employment overnight but nor should we accept that it's a remote dream."

The faction within the TUC still demanding a repeal of all anti-trades union legislation, and calling for national ownership of the means of production, made its voice heard yesterday.

Arthur Scargill, leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, linked full employment, a minimum wage and a repeal of anti-union laws in one motion. However, he was voted down in favour of the full employment package outlined by the TUC's own employment task group chaired by Mr Bickerstaffe.