Trade unionists want People’s Vote to save workers’ rights

by Rania Ramli | 10.09.2018

As a young trade unionist, I don’t trust the UK government to protect workers’ rights after Brexit. That’s why I’m backing a People’s Vote.

TUC Congress kicked off yesterday in Liverpool. The key discussion will be Brexit and its impact on workers. This comes at a time of growing momentum for a People’s Vote amongst the Labour Movement. In particular, I’m proud that Tim Roache, who is the general secretary of GMB – my union – came out this week in support of a public vote on the final Brexit Deal.

This follows Prospect, the Royal College of Nursing, Community and TSSA coming out in favour of a People’s Vote. Meanwhile, polling released over the weekend shows Unison members back a People’s Vote by 66% to 22%, and Unite’s members support a People’s Vote by 59% to 33%.

This makes sense considering the many pieces of EU legislation that make things both fairer and easier for EU workers.

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In 1998, the EU introduced limits on working hours, protecting staff from being overworked. Workers now can’t be forced to work more than 48 hours a week, and for under 18s this drops to 40 hours. The EU’s Working Time Directive forces employers to give workers sufficient time off, as well as protecting night workers.

Women and other minorities who are more likely to get discriminated against at work have benefited from EU rules explicitly banning unfair treatment. In any dispute, the burden of proof is now on the alleged perpetrator rather than the alleged victim, making it easier for workers to get justice. There is also currently no cap on the amount that an employer found guilty can be forced to pay in compensation.

The EU also guarantees women a minimum of 14 weeks maternity leave and the 1992 EU Pregnant Workers’ Directive also means that they have the right to take time off work for medical appointments relating to their pregnancy. The European Court of Justice has been firm in reiterating and upholding this, making clear that maternity discrimination is sexism and that employers must continue to uphold contractual rights whilst women are on leave, including paying into pension schemes.

There are plenty of other examples. But, importantly, what proud trade unionists are now saying loud and clear, is that whether you voted Leave or Remain – this isn’t the Brexit that people voted for in good faith. Democracy is a process not an event, and the only way to make sure that this is what workers want is by putting it to a People’s Vote once the terms are negotiated.

Trade unions have been at the forefront of so much radical change in our country and we can’t afford to put those hard-won rights at risk. I hope other trade unions take the lead of the GMB, TSSA, Prospect, Community and others and back a public vote on the final Brexit deal.

Young trade unionists are counting on it.

Rania Ramli is a supporter of For our Future’s Sake and GMB activist.

This article was updated on September 11 to make clear that GMB has not specifically backed the People’s Vote campaign, but does support a public vote on the final Brexit deal.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

2 Responses to “Trade unionists want People’s Vote to save workers’ rights”

  • One of the things that is irritating in the present situation is that when that absurd question: “What did the EU ever do for us” was put forward Labour and the trade unions all kept their mouths firmly shut instead of pointing out what the writer did in this article. Unfortunately that makes the Labour Party and the Trade Unions just as guilty of the mess we’re in now as the Conservative party is.

  • I had a letter from my Union (Unison) before the referendum urging me to vote remain before the referendum for broadly the same reasons set out in this piece.