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Analysis

Labour MPs won’t be wooed by flimsy workers’ rights pledge

by Luke Lythgoe | 06.03.2019

Another day, another attempt by the government to woo Labour MPs backfires. Theresa May’s post-Brexit package on workers’ rights has received short shrift from trade union leaders.

“History will not be kind” to Labour MPs who voted for the government’s deal based on the “nods and winks from a lame duck prime minister”, warned the GMB’s Tim Roache. Meanwhile Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, wrote off the proposals as “blatant window dressing”.

May is promising to enshrine existing EU employment rights into UK law after Brexit, and for Parliament to have a vote on adopting new EU rules in the future. The TUC has written this off as “flimsy procedural tweaks”. The concern is that these pledges won’t stop UK workers’ rights falling behind those of other countries or protect existing rights from being torn up by a right-wing government in the future.

Another problem is a chronic lack of trust towards a government that has previously been no friend of trade unions. If the prime minister were serious about protecting these rights, why not incorporate them into the EU withdrawal agreement in the first place, unions ask. As part of an international treaty, rights would be much harder to jettison at a later date.

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The prime minister’s package also promises a single new watchdog to protect vulnerable and agency workers. But there are concerns that if the new labour market body takes over the roles of the Low Pay Commission and ACAS then two of the historic gains of the Labour Movement – a statutory body dedicated to abolishing unfair low pay and a body working to secure effective trade union negotiations – will disappear.

It’s true that more must be done to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable workers. But this isn’t some new post-Brexit problem. Tackling it has nothing to do with whether the UK is in or out of the EU. But what has this government – or indeed David Cameron’s coalition government before it – done to crack down on unscrupulous employers?

Theresa May has fired another blank in her efforts to woo wavering Labour MPs to backing her deal. Like her attempted “bribe” to Labour constituencies earlier this week, with its piffling small amounts of money and clumsy delivery, this pledge on rights is likely to do more to discourage Labour MPs from backing the prime minister.

We now know that Brexit will leave workers worse off. It’s only fair to demand working people are involved – not ignored – in this decision. Trade union members expect to get the final vote on any deal their leaders negotiate. That’s why thousands of trade unionists will be joining our demonstration on March 23 – now is the time to put it to the people and demand our right to have a real say on our future.

One Response to “Labour MPs won’t be wooed by flimsy workers’ rights pledge”

  • Why not spell it out properly; why should unions trust a government that from day one couldn’t even spell the word truth without starting to get nauseous?