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2008 Set to be ‘Rocky’ warn TUC

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In his new year message to trade union members, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Brendan Barber said businesses should brace themselves for a rocky ride in 2008.

Speaking to members, Barber said that whilst the economic climate looked uncertain members should not talk themselves into thinking things were worse than they really are:

"The truth is that instability has not come from events in the real economy where people trade goods and services, but from the world of finance. Employment remains at record levels, and businesses say they are optimistic for the year ahead. Lower interest rates can only help. The greatest threat would be to confuse the difficulties now being suffered by banks with the economic fundamentals."

Barber said lessons should be learnt from focusing attention on the wrong things:

"For many years we have been told that over-regulation and red tape are the biggest barrier to economic growth. Yet the biggest threat to the world economy has come from a failure to regulate the US mortgage market... Let's make 2008 the year we stop having lazy debates about red tape, and start talking about getting the balance right - more regulation where we need it, and less where we don't."

Another big 'worry' said Barber is what he termed the 'simmering' resentment across the public sector at government pay policy.

"Public servants have already suffered a cut in their living standards this year. But the Government is planning a further three years of reduced living standards. The arguments for doing this do not stack up, and the risks are big. It does not just threaten the recruitment, retention and morale of public servants but will damage an industrial relations system that has minimised conflict in the public sector."

Looking at the year ahead Barber said that his one wish was to have a 'proper' political debate about making Britain a fairer society including protecting vulnerable workers and cutting the pay gap between the 'super-rich' and the 'rest'.

"This is why I hope that in the year ahead we can have a proper debate about tax. We need a campaign for fair tax. If the super-rich and big companies are not paying their fair share it means that the rest of us - including small and medium sized businesses are paying too much, that public services are not getting the growth they need and that we do not have the resources to end child poverty," he said.

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