Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary and health workers with Unison Vote Remain, Don't Risk Our NHS banner. Unison HQ, Euston, London. Unison press images: © Jess Hurd
Don’t risk the NHS in the #EUreferendum
Today, I and a group of members who all work in the NHS ‘unveiled’ UNISON’s official remain banner, ahead of the EU referendum the week after next. Well I say unveil, but I’m not sure it’s possible to unveil something 21 metres tall and 5 metres wide, and which can be seen for a good way along the Euston Road.
So while the launch of our remain banner may not have been such a surprise, UNISON’s decision to campaign for a remain vote might have come as more of one for many within the trade union movement.
That’s because our union has traditionally been Eurosceptic, concerned about the impact the EU’s free trade policies have had on our public services – and especially on the NHS. That’s not something we’ve forgotten about – far from it, the threat from TTIP and other trade deals has not gone away. But our view, on balance, is that our members, the public services they provide and the patients they care for are better off in Europe.
Our members led on this decision as they do in everything we do as a union – and their concerns about jobs, wages, employment rights and public services are at the heart of our campaign to persuade people to vote to stay in Europe.
Many of the regulations like guaranteed paid holiday and parental leave started out in Europe, are enshrined in EU law and upheld by the European Court of Justice. Leaving would mean that hard-won rights like fair working hours, equal rights for part-time workers and maternity/paternity leave would no longer be guaranteed.
Leaving the EU would also threaten working people’s standard of living by creating huge economic uncertainty. This would risk investment in jobs and damage consumer confidence. It would also make the pound vulnerable, which would push up prices and interest rates.
We see every day how a weaker economy has lead to cuts in public spending on the NHS, local council services, policing and education. The NHS and other public services can’t afford any more cuts, especially when they are already under so much pressure.
Health workers in particular are only too aware of the tough time the NHS has been having as it struggles to provide good quality patient care when there simply isn’t enough cash to meet the growing demand for its services.
Dedicated NHS staff also know that the increasingly ridiculous claims coming from the Brexit brigade that the NHS would be quids in outside the EU are the stuff of nonsense.
The economic uncertainty of a European exit would mean spending cuts that would plunge NHS finances even deeper into the red, threatening jobs, patient services and hospital beds.
The NHS is far too important to families across the UK to put it at risk with a leave vote on 23 June.
— UNISON – the union (@unisontweets) 8 June 2016