TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady. Photo: Jess Hurd/reportdigital.co.uk
Taking the fight for workers’ European rights to top bosses
Prime Minister David Cameron has revamped his Business Advisory Group, and their first task will be to advise him on his EU renegotiation strategy ahead of the referendum on Britain’s membership. Whilst it is bizarre that there are no representatives of working people on the Group (something most EU member states would consider anathema), TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady is making sure that the 19 top bosses involved know what unions think about the key issue of workers’ rights.
In individual letters to each of them, Frances has urged them “to advise the Prime Minister that diluting people’s rights to paid holidays, rest breaks and work-life balance would be a dangerous path to take.” She has given them the findings of the TUC’s extensive post-election poll, which found that 55% of the public would be more supportive of Britain’s membership of Europe if it did more to help working people get decent pay and conditions. By contrast, fewer than one in four said they would be more supportive of EU membership if it did more to cut what some people call “red tape” on businesses.
That ‘red tape’ usually means rights for working people, and certainly if the Government tries to take away paid holidays, rest breaks, and equal treatment for part-time or agency workers, working people would be less likely to vote to stay in the EU. That would threaten the access to markets around the rest of Europe that are the top priority for businesses.
And businesses also want to see free movement of labour continue. As Frances’ letter says:
“Public concern that free movement of labour is being used to undercut jobs, wages and conditions will not be answered by freezing or further undermining workers’ rights. On the contrary, workers and decent businesses need a level playing field to stop a race to the bottom, just as the European social market – the deal that ensures that workers are protected in a vibrant single market – was designed to deliver.”
We will continue to put pressure on business leaders and politicians to protect workplace rights – because they are vital to protecting working people’s living standards and working conditions.
Last month, Labour’s Chuka Umunna made a similar point when he said:
“I have made it very clear to business leaders that if they see renegotiation as a vehicle through which to roll back the EU’s social agenda on working hours, agency workers, voice in the work place, and so on then we will struggle to convince working people of the case to stay in. The CBI tells us that staying in is in their members commercial interests so I trust they and others will tell No 10 that that is their priority here, not further liberalising our labour market.”
And politicians from Plaid Cymru, SNP and the Greens have also backed our arguments.