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Monday, September 13, 1999 Published at 12:40 GMT 13:40 UK

UK: Wales

Trade unionists agonise over euro

The euro will be on the agenda at the TUC conference

Welsh trade unionists are set to join in the debate on the UK's position on the euro, as the TUC's annual conference gets under way in Brighton.

Wales has benefited greatly from inward investment from Europe and union delegates will be keen to highlight that fact during a debate on the single currency this week.

Key debates are also likely to take place on the Minimum Wage and Working Time Directive, which also have significant bearing on the Welsh economy.

BBC Wales's Industry Correspondent Miles Fletcher: "The euro is the great divisive issue of our time"
More than half of trade union members are opposed to the UK embracing monetary union, according to a survey conducted for the Transport and General Workers Union has found.

The poll of 600 trade unionists showed that 55% of trade union members were opposed to the UK signing up to the euro.

Of those surveyed, 21% were strongly opposed while 34% were opposed, but said they could be persuaded if they thought it was good for the economy. Just 14% were strongly in favour of early entry.

TUC General Secretary John Monks told BBC Wales he was upbeat about the conference.

"We meet here in Brighton with a spring in our step," he said.

TUC General Secretary John Monks: "We meet here with a spring in our step"
"Union membership is rising for the first time in 20 years.

"I think a lot of businesses are looking again at unions."

In Wales, the management of the giant Korean LG electronics plant in Newport had set up an agreement with union leaders.

Mr Monks said he also embraced the challenges ahead of a changing industrial base in the UK.

"The sociology of work in Britain is changing enormously, with four million less people working in factories," he said.

'No appetite' for early entry

Millions of new posts have been created in service industries, leisure and technology.

"The challenge to the unions of the future is to be as relevant to these workers as those who worked in coal mines and mills."

TGWU General Secretary Bill Morris said the survey lent support to the government's current policy.

"This poll clearly shows there is no appetite for early entry. Any move to bounce the British public will be counter-productive and could undermine the chances of a Yes vote in a referendum," Mr Morris said.

The issue of when Britain should join up to the single currency is expected to be a key issue at the TUC Congress in Brighton.

While some trade unions fear that joining the euro could lead to job losses, other unions, including the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, fear the UK will be at a disadvantage if it does not join the euro.

Their fear is that inward investment could be lost unless the UK signs up to the euro.

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