Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Transport and General Workers Union (O77)


  The Transport and General Workers Union is the largest food Union in the UK. We represent over 100,000 workers throughout the supply chain employed in sectors stretching from "plough through to plate".

  In particular the T&G has a key interest in the sugar industry. We are the rural trade union recognised to represent and bargain for thousands of agricultural workers, and also have 600 members employed within the sugar beet processing sector.

  As well as this direct sugar industry interest the T&G is also recognised by confectionary industry giants such as Nestle, Cadbury and Coca Cola for the purpose of representation and collective bargaining.

  The T&G is therefore a key stakeholder within the domestic review process and greatly welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the debate.


  The T&G have been surprised by the lack of any Government impact assessment into the consequences of adopting any of the reform options on UK jobs and communities. We believe that there are potentially very serious implications for employment in both sugar processing and agriculture as a result of the proposals.

    —  There are over 600 workers employed in sugar beet processing—many in rural areas.

    —  There are estimated to be 7,000 sugar beet farms producing sugar for UK processors.

  We are also aware of the concerns of the confectionary manufacturing industry in relation to sugar prices. The T&G believe that it would be irresponsible of Government to not independently assess the possible consequences of the proposed reforms.

    —  We believe that Government should implement proposals to establish independent social-economic impact assessments into the UK employment consequences of each of the options.

    —  We believe that Government should not make a final decision before making the conclusions of the assessments publicly available and allowing further stakeholder consultation.


    —  The T&G believe review of EU sugar regime is needed.

  We acknowledge that the current review is appropriate. We do not believe that the "status quo" is sustainable and therefore wish to see reform that may lead to a more accessible market whilst also taking into account the serious social-economic impacts of change on EU domestic economies.

    —  The T&G recognise strong concerns connected with EU sugar dumping on to world market.

  We recognise that dumping EU sugar on developing country markets is not sustainable and wish to see reform take account of this to the benefit of the poorest LDC countries.

    —  The T&G believe that the views of the LDC member states are pivotal.

  We believe that reform that leads to greater access to European markets should be of benefit to the poorest countries not just those with the infrastructure to take advantage of an open market. We are concerned that a zealot approach to deregulation and liberalisation will not be to the benefit of LDC countries in particular.

    —  The T&G believe the UK carries a unique position within the EU market.

  We believe that the UK is unique within the EU regime as producers and processors in the UK are not responsible for the tonnage dumped onto the world market. Therefore we believe that the Government should take account of this when choosing which reform option to support.

    —  The T&G believe that UK prices need to be comparable to average EU prices.

  We acknowledge that UK prices for sugar have been estimated to be 10% above the European average, and therefore acknowledge that this extra cost may have a negative impact on the UK confectionary manufacturing industry. We do not believe that there should be sudden and/or drastic price cuts within the European market as a result of reform, but do appreciate that price comparability throughout Europe would be an advantage to the UK food manufacturing base.

    —  The T&G believe that the most liberalising, deregulatory option for reform is the least beneficial.

  We believe that for both UK sugar workers and the LDC sugar industries—as they themselves have acknowledged—that "Option 3" would be the least beneficial and we therefore oppose any moves towards this approach to reform. Reliance on volatile world market prices would make it unsustainable for many developing countries to develop sugar as a viable export industry, and the drastic reduction in European price would mean that the UK industry would be exposed to severe if not impossible market pressures.

20 April 2004

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