Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Friday Forum

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Friday Forum

Article excerpt

Byline: By Graham Robb

Top of my own business agenda is productivity and the threat to productivity posed by the numerous `social costs' being loaded onto employers.

When Tony Blair decided to rename the DTI as the `Department of Productivity' I knew that employers were in for a rough ride.

The Department of Health deals will illness and the Department of Defence is responsible for conducting wars, it follows a renamed Department for Productivity would surely see productivity fall! Sure enough, within a few days the European Parliament ( aided by a North East Labour MEP ( had voted to end Britain's opt out of the 48-hour week under the false flag of health and safety law.

The MEP, Stephen Hughes, is a very charming and pleasant man. He represents Labour for the North-East in Brussels and is well known for his concern for the environment.

Unfortunately for North-East businesses, Mr Hughes has never had to organise a staff roster in an economy where increased regulation makes flexible employment practice increasingly difficult, but where customers demand and expect instant results and can shop around via the internet all over the globe. If he had, he might have thought twice before his vote.

If he did not have Euro taxpayers to fund his small office could he really cope with the 48-hour week that he has sought to impose on British business? Could he explain to a member of staff who is fit, willing and able to earn some extra overtime that his law prevented it? Would he like to tell the smaller businesses of the North ( there are thousands of them ( which customers they should let down because the European Parliament turned out the lights on the spirit of enterprise and hard work in favour of the "social model"?

Could he tell the hospitals which patients to turn away because the doctors are off home? Could he tell staff that redundancies are in the air because EU costs are making them uncompetitive? This week the Post Office announced record profits, but how quickly would those disappear if postal workers had a 48-hour week imposed? And how much would the service slow down? …

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