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2002-02-05 15:51:50
Southport workers denied rights


Employees of companies in Southport will have to wait for up to three years longer than their counterparts in Europe to gain the right to be consulted about major decisions affecting their livelihoods.
Euro-MPs meeting in Strasbourg today (Tuesday) gave their approval to new legislation intended to ensure that workers across Europe have the same minimum rights to information and consultation.
The measure, which will also apply to local councils and public bodies and will affect more than half the employees in Britain, has been delayed by opposition from the Government which has insisted on the UK having a six year opt out until 2008.
Eventually it will mean that employees of organisations employing more than 50 people have to be informed about the company's financial position, and consulted prior to decisions being made about substantial changes in contractual arrangements or in the organisation of work, especially if there is a threat to jobs.
The aim is to boost business success by promoting trust within organisations, make employees aware of the need for change and improvement, and encourage flexible working and adaptability. Companies do not have to follow the procedures if this would release sensitive information which might damage the business.
Southport MEP Chris Davies described the Government's determination to deny British workers basic rights as astonishing.
The Liberal Democrat argued that the European single market gave great freedom and opportunity to companies, and that employees as well as shareholders should share a level playing field.
"We don't want to increase the burden of regulations, but consultation with employees is good business practice," said Mr Davies. "Why should people in Britain be denied the rights already enjoyed by others across Europe?
"This is a very modest measure, and many Labour supporters will surely regard it a betrayal that their own government has fought tooth and nail to block it."
Although the EU law will affect half the employees across Europe it will not apply to the 97% of businesses which employ less than 50 people.

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