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Jobs law to be amended: Change would allow employers to offer 'sweeteners' for personal contacts

MINISTERS are to rush through a change in the law to allow employers to offer financial 'sweeteners' to encourage workers to sign personal contracts in preference to union-negotiated terms of employment.

A clause amending existing legislation is to be included in the Employment Bill presently going through the House of Lords and follows a Court of Appeal ruling last Friday that such inducements are unlawful.

The court found that David Wilson, 39, head of the National Union of Journalists' branch at the Daily Mail, was discriminated against for refusing to sign a contract when he was excluded from a 4.5 per cent pay rise.

A similar claim was brought by Brian Stedman, 49, an Associated British Ports bosun at Southampton and an officer of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, who was among those who lost pounds 20 a week compared with workers who signed individual contracts in 1991.

John Foster, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, accused the Government of a conspiracy with certain employers to change the law whenever they encountered a 'difficulty'. He said ministers were guilty of 'indecent haste' because the Court of Appeal had not yet produced its full judgement. 'We've already got the worst laws in the European Community and there appears to be worse to come.'

Jimmy Knapp, leader of the RMT, said he was concerned about 'moves which take away the protection that the law provides for individuals to join and participate in the activites of an independent union'.

On Thursday night, Viscount Ullswater, a junior emplyment minister, told the House of Lords that it was the Government's intention simply to 'clarify' the 1990 Employment Act. He said it was never the Government's intention when the law was introduced to 'interfere with an employer's freedom to seek to make such a change.'