Britain excluded from European talks on works council

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE GOVERNMENT is to be left out of negotiations on a controversial piece of European social legislation, even though many British companies will be covered by it, writes Andrew Marshall.

Padraig Flynn, the Social Affairs Commissioner, said yesterday that he was going ahead with a directive on European works councils under the Social Protocol of the Maastricht treaty. Because John Major negotiated an opt-out for Britain at the Maastricht summit, this does not include Britain, though British companies with large operations on the Continent will be covered. It is likely to bring some of Britain's leading companies into conflict with the Government, since the social policy opt-out means no minister can plead their case or negotiate for their interests. 'They are placed in a legal bind,' Steven Hughes, Labour MEP for Durham.

Works councils are aimed at helping workers in Europe to be better informed about decisions taken by multinational companies. The directive would set up consultative bodies for businesses employing 1,000 employees in the EU, and at least 100 employees in two member states.