Talks on Hoover relocation

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The Independent Online
UNION LEADERS from the Hoover plant at Cambuslang, near Glasgow, will face their French counterparts this week to try to justify the deal that persuaded the factory's US owners to transfer production from France.

Maytag decided to run down its vacuum cleaner plant at Dijon with 600 job losses when Cambuslang's 950 workers accepted wide-ranging changes in working conditions which have been criticised in France as 'social dumping'. Britain, the French say, is taking advantage of looser labour laws and lower wages.

John Major, however, has hailed Maytag's decision as 'recognition of the virtues of Britain'. He will reject any French attempt to outlaw the deal by invoking EC labour laws, and is confident that Britain will win more overseas jobs.

Eddie McAvoy, convener for the Amalgamated Engineering Union at Cambuslang will travel on Wednesday with the delegation to Brussels, where it will also meet the European Parliament Socialist Group. Mr McAvoy will remind critics that Cambuslang lost 300 jobs to Dijon in 1980.

Yesterday he admitted that the deal was not ideal but claimed that conditions would compare favourably with those at other British plants. Mr McAvoy denied that a no-strike deal had been signed and said that a one-off pounds 200 payment would offset a 12-month pay freeze. He denied that overtime rates had been cut, although payment for night shifts had been lowered. A 12-month agreement for contract workers had been extended to 24 months, he said, and statutory sick pay would be paid.

Professor Christopher Pissarides, a labour market specialist from the London School of Economics, doubted the Prime Minister's claims that Thatcherite reform of Britain's working practices was responsible for winning foreign investment. 'There is no strong evidence that there have been real changes in work practices here. Unions always give in easier when they see unemployment rising fast.' If the economy improved next year, 'I suspect the Cambuslang negotiators will go back to Hoover and renegotiate'.

However Britain was now a low-wage economy. 'There are genuine wage differentials between the UK and the rest of the EC, with the exception of Spain.'