Letter: Road to impoverishment if we abandon Maastricht's Social Chapter

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The Independent Online
Sir: In a happily rare departure from your usually well reasoned leading articles, that in yesterday's paper combines a touch of Francophobia with a great deal of Social-Chapter-phobia.

First, the Social Chapter does not, and will not, 'impose uniform wages and social costs' across the member states that are signatories to it. It was designed to provide a floor of rights for employees and others to ensure that the lifting of barriers in the single market did not lead to a levelling down of conditions to those of the poorest employer and the poorest state.

Second, to refer to the Social Chapter as a 'jobs destroyer' is to lend credence to the argument that any constraint on the operation of the labour market should be resisted because it has a negative impact on employment. If that were so, most people might well ask why the UK, with among the lowest statutory protection for employees in the EC, has one of the worst records on economic growth and employment.

Finally, the unions are in no way 'less critical' of the UK government's stance on the Social Chapter than they were before. Unions in the UK and France know that whichever country happens to benefit from the restructuring of industry on any one day, there is only progressive impoverishment ahead if we endorse the abandonment of social or employment standards in a desperate search for economic recovery.

Yours sincerely,

BILL BRETT

General Secretary

The Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists

London, SE1

3 February

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