Union campaigns for European-style legislation to protect UK workers

A row has broken out between the Transport and General Workers Union and the Welsh Assembly’s economic development minister Michael German over massive job losses in Wales.

A row has broken out between the Transport and General Workers Union and the Welsh Assembly’s economic development minister Michael German over massive job losses in Wales.

The union blamed 3,400 job losses at the Corus, Sony and Panasonic factories in Wales on the UK’s ‘soft touch’ employment legislation. The TGWU also called for tougher French and German-style social legislation to be introduced here. It wants multi-nationals to be forced to involve their workforces and trade unions fully before final decisions are made on redundancies.

German said legislation was not the answer, however, and that redundancies represented ‘old technology’ jobs. ‘The jobs that remain are high quality jobs producing the new digital age equipment,’ he said.

In a report titled Welsh manufacturing — a soft touch?, the TGWU compares UK legislation on foreign direct investment, worker consultation and redundancy with that of other European countries and calls for more equality in Europe on social protection legislation. Senior delegates, including Jim Hancock, TGWU Welsh regional secretary, went to Brussels last week to put forward the demands to MEPs Hugh Morgan and Glenys Kinnock and Commission officials.

Hancock said: ‘The grim reality is that British manufacturing is a soft touch. It is cheaper, quicker and easier to close plants and sack workers in the UK than it is elsewhere in the EU.

‘We recognise that global firms are vital to the Welsh economy. But they have to realise they have a social responsibility to the local communities where they are based.’ he added.

Welsh Assembly minister German said: ‘While any job losses are regrettable, we should bear in mind that the losses in the electronics industry represent old technology jobs that are being transferred to eastern Europe.’

Legislation was not the way to keep foreign investors in Wales, he said. ‘We are trying to ensure that the companies that are locked into Wales will remain here by up-skilling and getting young people skilled in this area.’