TUC calls for early euro entry

The annual conference of the Trades Union Congress, which met in September 1999, voted to call on the government actively to pursue UK entry into the single European currency early in the new decade. However, the TUC's two largest affiliates did not support this policy.

At its annual conference held in September 1999 (UK9909128N), the Trades Union Congress (TUC) gave strong backing to a motion urging the government to prepare for early UK entry into the single European currency, despite misgivings on the part of some major unions. Delegates voted for a motion which supported the UK having "the option of actively pursuing [euro] entry early in the new decade through action to bring the UK economic cycle more closely into line with that of our EU partners".

Speaking in support of the motion, TUC general secretary John Monks said that waiting was not a "cost-free option". The UK was "paying a price in higher interest rates and a strong pound. We are not talking about entry into the euro tomorrow or the day after, but we are pointing towards a policy of active rather than passive convergence - aiming for lower interest rates and a more competitive currency, and paving the way for the promised referendum to be held soon after the next election."

Emilio Gabaglio, general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, said that absence from the "euro-zone" would weaken the UK's influence within the EU.

Moving the motion, John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB general union, said that the TUC was signalling a "strengthening of purpose" in supporting euro entry, and Sir Ken Jackson, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, argued that the euro was central to the future of manufacturing.

However, the motion did not win the support of a number of major unions. The TUC's largest affiliate, the public services union UNISON, abstained in the vote, as did the shop workers' union USDAW. Among those voting against were the second-largest TUC affiliate, the Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU), and the Communication Workers' Union. Explaining their unions' concerns about the euro, UNISON representative Rita Donaghy and Bill Morris, general secretary of the TGWU, both voiced fears that its adoption could led to spending cuts and higher unemployment.

Government spokespeople emphasised that government policy would be unaffected by the TUC vote and remained the same as that set out by the Prime Minister in February 1999 (UK9902184N). While in principle favouring entry into a successful euro, the government has identified a range of conditions which would need to be met for euro entry to be in the UK's national economic interest (UK9905102F).

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