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LETTER : Costing the social chapter

YOUR article "Sabena threatens flight from Belgium" (Business, 12 March) couples the state-owned airline's proposed action with the burden of extra costs of labour arising from provisions based on the EU social chapter, and implies that opting out of the social chapter reduces the social security costs.

Social security costs, which add to expenditure on labour by the employer and reduce employees' take-home pay, include (in addition to income tax) items such as health insurance, pension contributions and other obligatory social taxes. All of these are determined within individual EU countries, mostly by their own governments.

These items fall outside the scope of EU laws and regulations, including those based on the social chapter. Whether a country opts out of the social chapter or not is, therefore, irrelevant in this context. Luxembourg, the country to which Sabena wishes to move its pilots, fully accepts the social chapter.

Social security costs are, therefore, quite separate from costs arising from the social chapter, such as works councils, pregnancy leave etc.

Dr Felix Kafka

Oakington, Cambridge