From the TUC

The EU referendum campaign begins: Let’s put workers first

21 Feb 2016, By

Bosses on both sides of the EU referendum debate seem to think their views are the only ones worth listening to. But working people don’t need lectures – we’ll be the best judge of what’s best for us and our families.

And with the vote fast approaching, the big question is – should we stay or should we go?

My main concern is what it means for people’s jobs and protection at work.

I’m not starry-eyed about the EU but the fact is that most of our rights at work come from membership.

So if the Brexit camp gets its way, who will guarantee mums and dads paid time off when the kids are sick or we want to take them on holiday? Or that part-time and agency workers get fair treatment?

It’ll be down to Tory ministers to pick and choose which rights we keep. And I don’t trust them to do that.

And what about manufacturing? Four million good jobs depend on trade with Europe. They wouldn’t all go, obviously – but with companies like Bombardier already under pressure it’s one hell of a gamble.

And if we left the EU it would be even easier for City fatcats to turn London into an offshore tax haven – maybe that’s why so many hedge funds are bankrolling the Leave campaign.

Of course David Cameron wants us to believe all our problems are caused by low-paid migrants. If you’re fit and able, you should only take out benefits when you’ve paid in. But if the PM really wanted to cut the benefit bill he’d stop attacking unions and make skinflint employers pay a fair wage in the first place.

Everyone will make up their own mind up how to vote. But remember, with the Tories in power, if you put your cross in the wrong place, you risk kissing goodbye to jobs and vital rights at work.

This morning an edited version of this piece was in the Sunday Mirror, with the alternative point of view put by Michael Gove MP. His remark that “membership of the EU prevents us being able to change huge swathes of law” is a chilling confirmation that, unfettered by EU law, the Tories would try to unpick workers’ rights that unions have campaigned for and won over the years.

3 Responses to The EU referendum campaign begins: Let’s put workers first

  1. John
    Feb 22nd 2016, 3:16 am

    I would never ever trust the right wing tea party Tories; let there be no mistake they are there just for themselves & their ‘business as usual’ financial backers; the so called 1%. They are light years away form the reality of everyday working life. A subjective comment I know, but based on reality not fiction.

    I strongly believe in the EU. It may be bureaucratic, but I am of an age to know that in the case of Europe ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ is ever more true as it was in 1945. Then and throughout the cold war we has the support of NATO & the USA; how long do you really think that the USA military financial support will continue, especially if the Republicans under Donald Trump regain power? It may simply depend on how left or right Europe ‘travels’ during these next few years!

    The Tory tea party would of course, especially if out of the EU, be prepared to spend millions of your tax payers money on upgrading the Trident; not on your infrastructure, not on your sustainable services, not on your your social services & nor your education.

    I may have digressed slightly, but thank you for this important article Frances O’Grady

  2. Kenneth Knapman
    Feb 23rd 2016, 5:42 pm

    I don’t think that our rights come from the EU. Most human rights were enshrined in the UN Charter and the European Court, which is not the EU.

    As far as Workers Rights are concerned, these have been fought for by the workers and their unions over centuries.

    The working week parental leave, all were fought for previous to pieces of paper in Brussels. Even the 48-hour working time directive there is no guarantee of implementation.

    Most factory and mine closures were while we have been members, which is why we have an eroded manufacturing base.

    Since the agreements of Iron and steel, we have lost most to Europe. Export of capital out of Britain by big monopolies is enabled by EU rules for free movement of capital. If we were out, restriction and State investment could be enabled without restrictive competition laws.

    Inward investment is controlled by business controlled local enterprise partnerships under the BIS, heavily regulated by EU law.

  3. John Wood

    John Wood
    Feb 24th 2016, 2:13 pm

    Hi Kenneth, this is specifically employment rights under law rather than universal human rights. A number of them were indeed in place beforehand – or originate from separate legislation, but there’s a floor set in by EU legislation that a UK government can’t go below (much as they may like to). That’s where the risk comes in – given we’ve already lost significant amounts of the employment rights that the coalition government, particularly Conservative party parts of it, were able to remove (eg the new 2 year delay before you’re protected from unfair dismissals, reduced maternity leave or new fees to access tribunals), it’s concerning that such large new areas of protections we take for granted could be opened up for reductions too.