TUC warns Cameron not to jeopardise the rights of British workers in his bid to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the EU

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, GMB,

eu_blocupyThe GMB has written to all 27 EU states warning it would consider campaigning for a “No” vote in the referendum if the Tories succeed in attacking workers’ rights.

David Cameron will today ask fellow delegates at the EU leaders’ summit to get rid of parts of the Working Time Directive and of the Agency Workers Directive in the UK as part of his renegotiation of the UK relationship with the EU.

GMB general secretary GMB general secretary Paul Kenny wrote: “British workers are already less well protected than many of their counterparts across the EU, and we urge EU Governments and institutions not to allow further erosion of this situation. Any undermining of these rights would not only be detrimental to British workers but would create unfair competition for other EU member states based on a race to the bottom, which I am sure you will agree is not the way to go.

“I write to you today, because I, and many of my colleagues in the British trade union movement, want negotiators to understand that if the EU Commission and Member State Governments allow Mr Cameron and his government in the course of the reform negotiations to undermine employment and social rights and their application to British workers, then there is a serious risk that many organisations traditionally in favour of the EU will campaign for a “No” vote.

“This is neither bluff nor threat, but rather a statement of fact.

“I am sure you will appreciate how difficult it would be for me to encourage my members to vote for a worsening of their rights and protections which we have fought so hard over so many years to achieve.”

The TUC took a more conciliatory view, urging David Cameron not to jeopardise the rights of British workers in his bid to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the EU.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We believe that working people deserve some straight answers on the nature of the renegotiation.

“We respectfully request that you publicly confirm or deny that you are seeking to worsen existing rights and, at a time when casual employment such as zero-hours working is spreading across Europe, prevent the introduction of new ones that would protect workers against exploitation.”

The TUC warns Cameron that presenting British workers with the prospect of an EU stripped of workers’ rights could seriously backfire: “Don’t take working people for granted by demanding opt outs from the workplace rights that Europe has delivered. British workers are already some of the least protected workers in Europe, well behind more successful economies like Austria, Germany and Sweden. But British workers do value the protections that they have. Our polling evidence shows that if you take rights away, working people are less likely to vote to stay in the EU.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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