100 days after the Brexit vote. Photo of Theresa May copyright Number 10 (under Creative Commons)
100 days after the #Brexit vote & we’re still in the dark on workers’ rights
It’s been 100 days since Britain voted to leave the EU, and still we’re no clearer about what Brexit means. In particular, despite Remain and Leave voters agreeing that workers’ rights should be maintained, the Prime Minister has failed to commit to that. The TUC is calling today for the Government to put the issue beyond doubt, ahead of triggering Article 50, and set out how our rights at work will keep pace with the rest of Europe after Brexit.
When the TUC polled voters after the referendum, the vast majority of Remain and Leave voters backed post-Brexit policies of safeguarding vital rights like maternity leave (73% of Remain and 69% of Leave voters) and maintaining protection against discrimination at work (80% of Remain voters and 77% of Leave voters). The vote to leave the EU certainly wasn’t a vote to get rid of those rights.
In her speech on becoming Prime Minister, Theresa May appealed directly to working people who are struggling to make ends meet, and who face job insecurity. She said:
“when we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you.”
The protection and improvement of workers’ rights outside the EU is a test of this commitment.
At the moment, being in the EU means those rights – and others about health and safety, fairness for part-time, temporary and agency workers – are guaranteed. After Brexit, politicians at Westminster will be able to whittle away those rights, and they won’t be required to keep up with rights across the rest of Europe. As we set out during the referendum campaign, that could open up the prospect of workers in Britain losing out compared with everyone else in Europe, and the scary possibility of Britain becoming a sweatshop off the coast of the continent.
We want the Government to make good on Theresa May’s promise, as one of the five tests that we want met before she triggers Article 50. We want her to stop the speculation, ease our worries, and commit to making sure British workers have rights at work at least as good as those in the rest of Europe. That agreement not to undercut the EU on employment rights must be at the heart of any future UK trade agreement with the EU.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has said:
“The Prime Minister must reassure working people that they will not pay the price for Brexit. No-one voted to put their rights at work in jeopardy. But 100 days later, we’re still in the dark about EU-guaranteed rights like parental leave, protection from excessive working hours, and protections for part-timers and agency workers. It’s time the Prime Minister made a clear commitment to protect all workers’ rights. And she must set out how she will make sure British workers do not see their working conditions fall behind European workers in the future.
“The government must set out a negotiation strategy that protects trade, investment and jobs. Otherwise we risk sleepwalking towards a hard Brexit, which would leave working people facing hard times.”