Theresa May Brexit speech (Photo by WPA Pool/Getty Images)
May’s Brexit: working people need more detail about what PM has planned for their rights
The Prime Minister’s speech on Brexit today has raised more questions than it has answered, and in particular, the TUC wants to know what exactly the Government has planned for working people before Parliament votes on the EU-UK deal she intends to negotiate. Her commitment to protect workers’ rights is inadequate without a lot more flesh on the bone. And, whilst we welcome the pledge to give Parliament a vote on the final deal, we want MPs to know exactly what they are being asked to endorse in terms of the rights of working people.
In particular, we’ll want a clear process in place for making sure that British workers’ rights don’t fall behind the rights of working people across the rest of the European Union. And we’ll be seeking greater detail about how the government will enhance rights in Britain’s workplaces, such as:
- an end to employment tribunal fees which are pricing workers out of justice and new resources for enforcement agencies to clamp down on bad employers and an extension of licensing to sectors with high levels of exploitation;
- an extension of collective bargaining, including modern wages councils – starting in low pay sectors – in which unions and business work together to prevent undercutting and drive up pay and conditions;
- worker representation on company boards to bring a long term perspective to company decision making;
- better union representation rights including the right for unions to access a workplace to tell workers about the benefits of joining a union;
- action by government to drive out the use of zero hours contracts, by ending procurement with companies using them, and requiring all companies to report and explain their use of zero hours contracts can agency workers and ‘self employed’ contractors;
- a better floor of employment rights so that everyone working for an employer has access to family friendly working and unfair dismissal rights and rights to pay during paternity leave for men who are self employed or in insecure work; and
- rights to equal treatment for agency workers by ending the Swedish derogation which allows employers to undercut pay rate.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has responded:
“We are pleased the Prime Minister has committed to a parliamentary vote on the final deal. But before that vote, we will need to know exactly what the new framework she promised for workers’ rights and jobs will be.
“Working people are worried they will end up paying the price of leaving the Single Market. There is real concern that it will be bad for jobs, bad for rights at work, and bad for the living standards of British people.
“The commitment to protect workers’ existing rights and to build on them is welcome. The best way to do this is for the Prime Minister to agree that UK workers’ rights will always be as good as, or better, than workers’ rights in the rest of the EU.”
The full text of what the Prime Minister said today on workers’ rights is as follows:
“as we translate the body of European law into our domestic regulations, we will ensure that workers’ rights are fully protected and maintained.
“Indeed, under my leadership, not only will the Government protect the rights of workers set out in European legislation, we will build on them. Because under this Conservative government, we will make sure legal protection for workers keeps pace with the changing labour market – and that the voices of workers are heard by the boards of publicly-listed companies for the first time.”
A cynic would point out that these promises are not worth too much given how cavalierly she has watered down a central pledge of her Conservative Party leadership – to put workers on the board – with her latest promise merely to make sure our voices are heard. That’s why the TUC is insisting on a clear mechanism for protecting and extending workers’ rights before Parliament votes on the eventual deal.
We’ll explore in further blogs what the Prime Minister’s speech means for jobs and living standards, as well as for managing migration.