`Pay us in euros' say car workers

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The Independent Online
STAFF AT Vauxhall Motors' two big car plants want to become the first important group of British employees to be paid in euros amid evidence of increasing interest elsewhere in the new currency.

Representatives of more than 9,000 workers at the Luton and Ellesmere Port plants have urged union officials to investigate the possibility of wages being paid in euros so they can take advantage of the lower interest rates on the Continent, The Independent understands. The base rate in Europestands at 3 per cent, compared with 5.5 per cent here.

In particular, Vauxhall workers want easier access to low mortgage rates and have been advised they would probably need bank accounts in euros. They are also keen to see more "transparency" between their pay rates and the higher earnings of German workers, who are continually lauded for their higher productivity.

Vauxhall management and senior union leaders have expressed enthusiasm for the new currency. Ken Jackson, leader of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, said his research department was investigating the practicalities of switching to the new currency. He said: "The euro will benefit working people throughout the UK and it is already clear many of them are preparing themselves for UK entry because they believe it is in their best interests to do so."

Union officials have contacted Barclays Bank, which believes the arrangement is possible, although workers would be left open to exchange- rate fluctuations. Nevertheless, the bank calculates that a borrower could save pounds 250 a month on a pounds 100,000 loan by taking out a euro mortgage.

Nick Reilly, the chief executive at Vauxhall Motors, is thought to be sympathetic. He recently estimated Britain's insistence on sticking with sterling would cost his company pounds 10m in transaction and hedging costs.