Letter: Social Chapter: beggar-my-neighbour nationalism, wage differentials

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article on the European Community Social Chapter (3 February) referred to low-wage countries such as Spain attracting inward investment which otherwise would be blocked if the Social Chapter applied to Spain.

Why, then, is the Spanish government one of the strongest supporters of the Social Chapter in the European Council of Ministers? The reason is that Spain - and other EC members - consider that there is more to the construction of Europe than destroying all social rights so that multinational companies can squeeze a little more out of their workforce. Wage differentials exist and will continue to exist and the Social Chapter, rightly, says nothing about them.

It does suggest that European workers have common minimum rights - on maximum work time, on maternity leave, on health and safety provision, and on joint consultation with employers. Once those minimum rights have been met, it is up to countries, communities, employers and workers to decide on remuneration. But the British government is opposed even to the minimum common social rights that European citizens should enjoy in the workplace. The Hoover row and different wages in EC countries are irrelevant to Europe's main charge that Britain alone will not accept a level playing field on minimum social and consultation rights at work.

Yours

DENIS MACSHANE

International Metalworkers'

Federation

Geneva

5 February

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