The pro-Brexit “left” (such as it is) has a big problem dealing with the fact that many workers’ rights enshrined in UK legislation would not exist but for the EU. The best they can come up with is flat denial of facts (“TUPE has nothing to do with the EU”), straw-man evasion (“workers’ rights have been attacked without a peep from the EU”) and banality (“it was the trade union movement that won workers’ rights in Britain”).
If you want a taste of this kind of disingenuous little-England garbage, decked out with fake-“left” phraseology, read any day’s edition of the Morning Star.
Fortunately for the UK labour movement, we now have a report from the TUC proving beyond reasonable doubt that rights such as paid annual leave and fair treatment for part-time workers are due to the EU and will be in danger if Britain leaves.
Rights and protections including TUPE, paid annual leave, time off for antenatal appointments and fair treatment for part-time and agency workers, are “used every day by millions of workers”, the TUC said. But if the UK votes to leave the EU, “no one can say what will happen to these rights”.
The TUC highlights the likelihood that following a Brexit the Tory government would be emboldened to roll back rights and safeguards brought in and protected by the EU. The authoritative report – UK Employment Rights and the EU was released today.
The report says there has been some recent concern among union members that Brussels has increasingly restricted the scope of EU social policy by placing limits on the ability of unions to organise industrial action in cross-border disputes. It says that, in some eurozone countries, the European commission has undermined collective bargaining agreements that cover whole industries: “However, set against these concerns are the significant employment rights gains that continue to accrue to UK workers as a result of our EU membership.”
“These are wide-ranging in scope, including access to paid annual holidays, improved health and safety protection, rights to unpaid parental leave, rights to time off work for urgent family reasons, equal treatment rights for part-time, fixed-term and agency workers, rights for outsourced workers, and rights for workers’ representatives to receive information and be consulted, particularly in the context of restructuring.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Working people have a huge stake in the referendum because workers’ rights are on the line. It’s the EU that guarantees workers their rights to paid holidays, parental leave, equal treatment for part-timers, and much more.
“These rights can’t be taken for granted. There are no guarantees that any government will keep them if the UK leaves the EU. And without the back-up of EU laws, unscrupulous employers will have free rein to cut many of their workers’ hard-won benefits and protections,” she said.
The report warns that the government has already succeeded in reducing workers’ rights, when in 2012 the qualifying period for unfair dismissal rights was increased from one to two years, along with new caps on compensation.
“And in 2013, much higher fees were imposed on workers seeking to enforce their rights at employment tribunals,” it says.
Ms O’Grady added: “The current government has already shown their appetite to attack workers’ rights. Unions in Britain campaigned for these rights and we don’t want them put in jeopardy. The question for everyone who works for a living is this: can you risk a leap into the unknown on workplace rights?”