Union group formed to campaign for euro entry
In March 2000, a group of UK trade unions joined forces to launch a campaign to boost support for the UK joining the European single currency. The unions believe that emphasising the EU social dimension is crucial in persuading UK workers to vote for euro entry in a referendum.
On 15 March, a number of leading UK trade unions launched a campaign in support of the UK joining the EU single currency. Unions supporting the Trade Unionists for Europe (TUfE) campaign include the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU), the GMB general union, the Graphical, Paper and Media Union, the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation and the National Union of Knitwear, Footwear and Apparel Trades. The TUfE organisation is chaired by Sir Ken Jackson, general secretary of the AEEU.
The campaign seeks not only to press the case for the UK joining the euro but also to emphasise the significance of the social dimension of European integration. This reflects fears on the part of pro-euro union leaders that the government has sought to present a business case for euro entry but neglected to stress the benefits of EU membership for workers and their families. The organisers of TUfE believe that a broader campaign is necessary to boost the prospects of the UK electorate voting in favour of euro entry in the proposed referendum on the issue expected sometime after the next election.
In a document entitled A trade union agenda for Europe, published at the launch of its campaign, TUfE argues that the government fought a "faint-hearted" campaign in the 1999 elections for the European Parliament and has adopted a "timid" stance on the issue of the single currency. The document calls for the UK to join the single currency early in the next parliament. TUfE regards the argument that joining the single currency would require public spending cuts as "scare-mongering", but acknowledges that "more reasonable concern" arises over the current exchange rate between the pound and the euro, citing independent estimates that the pound must fall by some 20% for "painless entry". However, TUfE believes that: "While Britain stays out of the single currency our influence in EU decision-making will become steadily more marginal while the EU grows relentlessly more important to jobs and living standards in Britain."
The TUfE document argues that: "A referendum on the single currency, when it comes, is going to be won or lost in the factories, shops and offices of Britain. Europe's social dimension will be a key point in positive campaigning on the euro." The document is critical of the government's "ambiguous" attitude to social Europe - "professing support" for EU social policy measures while "watering down" the resulting regulations on working time (UK9810154F) and part-time work (UK0002153N) and "opposing outright" the European Commission's proposal for a Directive on national information and consultation rules (EU9812135F) - and sets out an agenda for future EU social policy development, including the establishment of transnational trade union rights. TUfE says that, in the light of the UK government's commitment to workplace partnership, it is "extraordinary" that the UK should oppose the draft consultation Directive: "The government should reverse its stance and become a staunch promoter of the information and consultation Directive and use the increased security and involvement that workers will feel as the basis of its pro-euro campaign."
At its most recent annual conference in September 1999, the Trades Union Congress voted to call on the government actively to pursue UK entry into the single European currency early in the new decade (UK9909129N). However, a number of major unions, including the TUC's two largest affiliates, continue to take a more "euro-sceptic" stance.