The Social Policy of The European Community, Reporting Information
to Employees, a U.K. Perspective: Historical Analysis and Prognosis
University of Glasgow, Scotland
This paper reviews the development of a specific issue of social policy within a UK and European Union frame of reference; the transmission of information to employees on a regular and periodic basis as part of industrial relations and collective bargaining operations. The foundations of social policy in the UK were largely implemented after the end of the Second World War from policy investigations and research during that war. In the immediate post-war period, Britain attached a greater significance to the strengthening of Atlantic alliances than to the potential of political and strategic association with initiatives in Europe. Eventually, as Britain engaged in European discourse and integration, issues of the harmonisation of social policy in industrial relations emerged. During the 1970’s, a consensus began to materialise in the UK consistent with ideas which were being discussed within the European Community. However, the UK general election of 1979 resulted in the empowerment of political and economic forces which were based, not on the corporatist structures of European states, but those of a more free and deregulated market-based ideology. During the 1980s, considerable opposition to the Vredeling proposals and the 5th Directive on Company Law harmonisation was encouraged and supported by the Conservative government, ultimately leading to the negotiation of an opt-out from the Maastricht treaty on the social chapter in 1992. The opt-out was hailed by Euro sceptics in Britain as a major diplomatic triumph but more recently a considerable number of British industrial and commercial organisations have indicated that they intend to comply with certain terms of the social chapter in 1996. As the European Union edges gradually to a review and renegotiation of the Maastricht treaty, commencing in 1996, this paper offers an historical analysis of British attitudes on certain social policy matters, explores the reasons for the British opt-out stance and assesses the political, social and economic attitudes which might be adopted in the negotiations of “.