[A-List] EU integration: UK-German anti-labour alliance
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
Tue Mar 30 07:24:24 MST 2004
No surprise that either Blair or Schröder would choose to go down the road
of capital. And with Germany now set on the road of "reform", whatever
likelihood of there being a "social Europe" is gone. Not that there was much
chance of it anyway, as the careful study of Bastiaan van Apeldoorn has
shown -- the Commission has long been a captive of big capital, and in
particular that wing of European capital that backs neoliberal reform rather
than a "Fortress Europe" mercantilist approach. "Social Europe" was always
going to be a poor third to either of these agendas, although it is largely
thanks to the lack of coordination within the European labour movement that
such a result has been achieved. And very much culpable has been the British
labour movement, whose social chauvinism, buttressed by a convenient,
opportunistic opposition to "monetarism", has weakened both "social Europe"
and "social Britain".
Van Apeldoorn's book can be found here:
Germany backs UK over working hours opt-out
By George Parker in Brussels
Financial Times: March 29 2004
Germany is backing Britain in its fight to allow employees to work
voluntarily more than 48 hours a week, signalling a growing alliance between
the two governments to block initiatives they see as damaging to business
In a move prompting a sharp response from Europe's leading trade unionist,
Tony Blair, the prime minister, and Gerhard Schröder, German chancellor,
have privately agreed that Britain's opt-out from European Union rules
Under the EU's working time directive, member states must enforce a 48-hour
working week, but the UK has been allowed a decade-long exemption, which it
is seeking to renew.
Some European Commission officials have criticised British policy, arguing
that UK employers have abused the opt-out by coercing staff to work longer
hours. The Commission is due to end a review of the opt-out on Wednesday and
has not yet decided what to do, but the UK-German agreement means it is
unlikely the exemption will be scrapped.
The deal is evidence that the Commission's efforts to create a "social
Europe" as a counterweight to the EU's single market could be grinding to a
halt, to the dismay of union leaders. John Monks, head of the European Trade
Union Confederation, attacked the move, saying he was disappointed that Mr
Blair and Mr Schröder should be opposing moves to improve conditions.
The agreement is the second such deal recently. Germany also agreed to back
Britain in blocking a move to regulate the temporary workers sector. Germany
may expect further concessions from the UK, although Britain signalled it
would meet German demands in talks on the EU constitution by dropping its
national veto in areas of judicial co-operation. Mr Monks, a moderate former
leader of the Trades Union Congress, said Mr Blair's determination to
protect Britain's opt-out was "disproportionate".
The CBI said the option of longer working gave employers extra flexibility.
"It would be bad news to have that flexibility removed but essentially it is
about individual freedom," the CBI said.
More information about the A-List