UK reaction to draft EU consultation Directive

Proposals to regulate national rules on employee information and consultation, adopted by the European Commission in November 1998, have been welcomed by UK unions but opposed by employers and the Government.

The European Commission's proposal for further EU legislation on employee information and consultation, issued on 11 November 1998, has received a mixed response in the UK. While the Trades Union Congress (TUC) welcomed the draft Directive, it was strongly criticised by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). The UK government, which had already stated its opposition to EU legislation on this issue, was reported in the Financial Times to have secured the support of the new, Social Democrat-led German government (DE9811281F) for a move to block the proposal in the Council of Ministers.

The UK government is opposed to the proposed Directive on grounds of "subsidiarity" and because it would cut across existing national practice and the Government's legislative proposals on union recognition by employers (UK9806129F). The CBI too argued that "the imposition of prescriptive legislation" on national information and consultation rules would constitute a "completely unacceptable breach of the principle of subsidiarity". According to the CBI, "developing flexible, voluntary arrangements tailored to an organisation's history, size, culture and people is the best approach to information and consultation."

TUC general secretary John Monks said in a statement: "I have never understood why the British government is so opposed to such a measure. It simply requires all companies to do what successful ones already do - tell staff what is going on and listen to what they have to say." Mr Monks added that there was no reason why the government could not argue for a Directive that sets clear objectives, the national implementation of which could take account of the different patterns of industrial relations in each country.

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