From the TUC

Women workers & the EU referendum

11 Mar 2016, By

Frances O’Grady addressed the TUC Women’s Conference in London on Weds 9 March. Here is an extract from her speech.

Sisters, my next priority is making sure working women get a proper voice in the forthcoming EU referendum. I don’t know about you, but I’m fed up with the blokey nature of the coverage so far.

So far, it all seems to be about a massive ego clash between two Old Etonians. On the one hand, we’ve got an “in” campaign fronted by David Cameron, dominated by big business and part-funded by the banks  And on the other, we’ve got an “out” campaign fronted by Boris Johnson, dominated by big business and funded by hedge funds.

Spot the difference.

In the run up to June 23rd, our job is to make sure the interests of working people are right at the heart of the debate.

And while I recognise there are different views in our ranks – just as there is in the country – we need to think through the practical implications of an out vote for working people.

Now I’m not starry eyed about the EU. The TUC is angry about much of what’s happened over the past decade. Privatisation. Deregulation. Extreme austerity imposed on countries like Greece. In fact, pretty much what George Osborne has spent his time in Brussels arguing for. We want to see that reversed.

And we’re campaigning with our colleagues in the European Trade Union Confederation – including the recently elected President of the ETUC women’s committee, our very own Gloria Mills – for a positive vision of reform. For investment in decent jobs, stronger rights and guaranteed protection for our NHS and all public services from trade deals like CETA and TTIP.

But in June we have to make a choice, and the TUC’s position is clear:

A Brexit poses real threats for workers, in particular women workers. Not just for our jobs, but for our rights at work too.

Because the truth is so many of the rights we take for granted are only protected from the Tories because we are members of the EU. Holiday pay. Maternity rights. Parental leave. Stronger equal pay provisions. And better anti-discrimination protections. Rights at work that unions across Europe campaigned together to win.

And, in turn, rights that provide the foundation for our union collective agreements to build on.

So the question the Brexit camp have to answer is this: if we came out of the EU would a Tory government, that is already bashing us with its Trade Union Bill, really protect and keep those rights at work?

If you want my honest opinion, it’s this: Not a chance.