Unions see jobs threat in greater European union

TUC warns on the effects of moving to a single currency.
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The Independent Online
Union leaders yesterday called for measures that would guarantee employment levels in the face of closer European union. In a marked departure from the unions' previously enthusiastically pro-European stance, John Edmonds the general secretary of the GMB, said existing convergence criteria set out in the Maastricht treaty could drive Europe backwards into recession and force unemployment levels upwards.

The TUC's general secretary John Monks supported Mr Edmonds. He told the second day of the TUC conference in Blackpool:"The great weakness of the European treaties is that they say so little about jobs. That is why we wholeheartedly support the Swedish proposal that an employment chapter be added to the treaties.

"We need to make it abundantly and transparently clear that Europe is also committed to full employment for all of its people," he said. Mr Monks criticised the Conservative government for agreeing a timetable which promised to fully implement a single currency within six years without properly preparing the country. "In our opinion the British government should try very hard to slow down the single currency timetable."

If it went ahead the UK would be "between a rock and a hard place". But he said that of all the choices available, including staying out or "shadowing" the single currency, going in to monetary union resentful and without enthusiasm was the only realistic option.

The speech in effect reversed the pro-European position taken by unions since the late 1980s. Although traditionally much of the trade union movement campaigned against greater European union, its favourable employment policies had swung unions to a determinedly pro-European stance since 1988.

Bill Morris, general secretary of the TGWU, called for a referendum as part of an "informed debate" on the subject of greater union. "All over Europe, the results of the convergence criteria for single currency are coming home to roost. In France, Germany, Italy, the results are the same. Cuts in public services. Cuts in social benefits. Cuts in jobs," Mr Morris said. Hand in hand with a debate, he said, must be "tangible evidence of job-creating measures."

Clive Brooke, general secretary of the PTC, said the union had serious concern about the convergence criteria and called for a Common Jobs policy backed up by job creation funds.

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Ken Jackson, leader of the AEEU, warned the Government that it should either come to terms with Britain's membership of the EU, or leave.

t The finance union BIFU yesterday announced the setting up of a European Works Council with Hongkong and Shanghai Bank - Britain's most profitable company, which includes the Midland bank.

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