Labour attacks 'illegal' cut in redundancy rights

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Indy Politics

Political Correspondent

New regulations to withdraw redundancy protection from employees where fewer than 20 jobs are lost are illegal, Labour claimed yesterday.

Michael Meacher, the party's employment spokesman, told the Commons the Government had used the excuse of bringing the law into line with European law to cut workers' rights.

Mr Meacher, introducing a Labour motion to cancel the regulations, lent his support to a court case being brought by three trade unions against the Government later this month.

The GMB general union, the public sector union Unison and a teachers' union, the NASUWT, have been given leave to seek judicial review of the Government regulations, which take effect on 1 March.

The regulations were brought in after the European Court ruled in June 1994 that the Government was required to give consultation rights to employees in non-union workplaces. European law requires "workers' representatives" to be consulted where more than 20 redundancies are planned, whereas UK law only requires trade unions to be consulted.

The new regulations require employers to consult "elected employee representatives" in all workplaces - but they also take away existing consultation rights in cases where fewer than 20 redundancies are planned. The unions will argue in court that the Government acted beyond its powers in using the regulations to do more than bring British law into line with European law. The European Communities Act 1972 gives minis- ters power to make regulations "for the purposes of implementing any Community obligation of the United Kingdom".

A spokeswoman for the Department of Trade and Industry said the Government was confident it had acted properly. But a TUC spokesman said: "If the Government wants to take away these rights it should do so openly rather than try to sneak it through."