Letter: Too late to lament Rover's sale to BMW: the battle was lost long ago

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The Independent Online
Sir: In all the comment about the BMW/Rover deal, little or no attention appears to have been paid to the European Union social chapter implications.

BMW workers in Germany will be covered by the provisions of the social chapter including the right to representation on boards of management, a right which is also guaranteed under German legislation. If Britain continues to opt out of the social chapter an anomaly may well arise in the future whereby Rover workers will be unable to enjoy the same rights as their German counterparts in the same group of companies. If BMW decides to extend social chapter rights to its British employees at least one group of British workers will have 'opted in' to the social chapter and the Government's cherished 'opt out' will seem even more ridiculous.

When the decision was announced it soon became clear that many Rover employees only heard about it that morning or from the daily press. There does not appear to have been much by way of prior consultation. By contrast, the larger German companies consult with their workforce as a matter of course. Had Rover been taking over BMW, employee representatives would have been involved at a much earlier stage. The social chapter seeks to extend that practice to all the member countries of the European Union. The British government has, however, set its face against any such move.

Yours faithfully,

JOHN THOMSON

Marlborough, Wiltshire

2 February

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