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GMB Position On The EU Referendum

Monday, February 22, 2016

EU Referendum Will Be Biggest Decision In A Generation For GMB Members And Their Families

The vote is about our future, about a vision of what a social Europe can bring, so it’s time to be positive about the benefits to our economy, jobs and our environment says GMB.

The GMB Central Executive Council meeting on 9th February considered the progress in the renegotiation of the UK membership of the European Union and the forthcoming referendum on 23rd June and agreed to issue a statement on the GMB position. See notes to editors for previous GMB statements on the issue.

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, said “A vote on whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union or not is rushing towards us and is the biggest decision in a generation for GMB members and their families.

This is a massive moment which could dramatically change the lives of working people and their families for generations to come.

Have no doubt this vote matters, it matters a lot.

One of the worst kept secrets is that the EU needs reform. The vision of a social Europe raising living standards and building the economies of new member states has lost its way. In truth it has been diverted by business interests over working families.

The exploitation of people desperate for a better life has been growing in recent years. Undercutting wage rates and denying local people jobs has become the visible signs of this corporate exploitation. It's wrong, it's outrageous and it is completely stoppable. Not by voting to leave the EU, but by demanding a return to that vision of a social Europe.

Does anybody actually believe that the European laws on things like maternity and parental leave, health and safety protections, equal rights for part time workers, TUPE ,paid holidays and so much more would be protected by the Conservatives, UKIP or any of their fellow travellers? Dream on if you do.

This crucial vote should not be about a protest or to save David Cameron's skin but about our future, your future. During the referendum campaign we will all be bombarded with opinions, statistics, misinformation, the media telling you how to think and plain old fashioned lies and prejudice.  

GMB will be honest and informative throughout the process. GMB will not seek or promote any argument that pitches worker against worker. This coming vote is about our future, about a vision of what a social Europe can bring.

It's time to be positive about the benefits to our economy, jobs and our environment.

The closeness of the polls must be the wakeup call for those in Westminster and Brussels that the British people are serious about change and change for the better but the harsh straight fact is that we cannot get that change by voting to leave the EU.

To enable the union to get our very specific messages across our campaign will not be allied with any of the 'remain' organisations.”


End

Contact: Kathleen Walker Shaw 07841 181 549 or Kamaljeet Jandu 07956 237 178 or
Cath Speight 07506 711925 or Lisa Johnson 07900 392228 or GMB press office 07974 251 823 or 07921 289880 or 07970 863 411.

Notes to editors

Copy of previous GMB statements on EU

1 copy of GMB press release dated 24th September 2015.

GMB MOTION TO 2015 LABOUR CONFERENCE CALLS FOR SPECIAL CONFERENCE ON EU REFERENDUM ONCE DATE IS KNOWN TO APPROVE LABOUR STRATEGY

Motion opposes working with any campaign or faction in the forthcoming referendum which supports or advocates cutting employment or social rights for people working in the United Kingdom

A GMB contemporary motion on the subject of EU reform and forthcoming referendum is tabled for debate at the 2015 Labour Party Conference in Brighton. The text of the motion is set out below.

This motion follows the warning at the TUC Congress on 15th September that GMB will not be complicit in the Prime Minister’s bid to cut worker’s rights in the UK as part of his re-negotiations in the run up to the EU referendum.

See notes to editors for press release with copy of the text of Paul Kenny’s speech at TUC Congress and the text of the TUC General Council statement which was carried at the Congress on 15th September 2015.

The text of the motion is as follows:

“GMB contemporary motion – Labour Party Conference 2015 – Europe:

Conference notes that earlier this month David Cameron gave agreement to appear before the European Parliament to promote his government's agenda for EU reform.

Conference deplores the actions of the Prime Minister and his attempts to rob workers in the UK of the vital social and employment rights gained from membership of the European Union.

Conference calls on the Parliamentary Labour Party to demand that the government present to Parliament a detailed account of their negotiating demands in advance of addressing the European Parliament. 

Conference opposes working with any campaign or faction in the forthcoming referendum which supports or advocates cutting employment or social rights for people working in the United Kingdom.

Conference understands the importance of returning to a vision of a social Europe without which membership of the European Union fails to deliver good jobs and services for all.

Conference recognises that the erosion of social rights and the undemocratic TTIP proposals will bring conflict to the heart of the referendum debate.

Conference requires that, once the date of the referendum on Europe is known, a Special Conference is called to approve Labour Party campaign strategy.”

End

2 Copy of GMB press release dated 15th September 2015.

UK GOVERNMENT WARNED AT TUC THAT UNIONS WILL NOT BE COMPLICIT IN CUTTING WORKER’S RIGHTS IN THE UK IN EU RENEGOTIATIONS

It is shameful that a British Prime Minister should be prostituting himself for the pimps at the CBI begging to make British workers the second class citizens says GMB

Paul Kenny GMB General Secretary, in a debate at TUC Congress on the forthcoming EU referendum warned that GMB will not be complicit in cutting worker’s rights in the UK. See notes to editors for copy of the text of Paul Kenny speech. 

Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary speaking in the debate, said “The Prime Minister of the UK has been poncing around Europe seeking an agreement to cut the rights of working people in Britain.

It is shameful that a British prime minister should be prostituting himself for the pimps at the CBI begging other European heads of government to make British workers the second class citizens of the European world of work.

We know existing EU protections are being eroded but this latest government sponsored attack on the whole tenet of social Europe.

This brings those of us previously in the yes to Europe camp to the edge of fundamental change. The balance has gone, now a naked attempt by this government to remove fundamental rights will force us to ask ourselves a difficult for some question.

We are giving a very clear warning and a simple but inescapable truth - be careful what you wish for. It’s a very big mistake to take the TUC or any affiliate here for granted.

Let’s send a clear message – we will not be complicit in cutting worker’s rights in the UK.”

End

3 Text of Speech by Paul Kenny speaking in the EU Referendum debate at TUC in Brighton on 15th September 2015.

This is not about whether the TUC or any individual affiliate will make a final decision today about our attitudes in the referendum on British membership of the European Union, which may take place before this congress meets again.

Whatever the debate here individual unions will determine their own positions as and when the time comes.

The views of some are well known. It is clear however that for many others including the GMB we are going to face critical decisions in the months ahead. For whatever the great vision of a democratic European union was, what we have now is not it.

And just let me make the point GMB has embraced that vision as long as anyone.

Campaigning with MEPs and European trade unions to try and help realise that social Europe which was the quid pro quo to balance the business interests of European corporations.

That balance has gone, freedom of movement of workers has long failed to be matched by social and employment rights and protections.

We now have exploitation and labour market manipulation designed to drive down living standards.

We have seen and fought the exploitation of workers via umbrella agencies used to recruit workers on terms and conditions sometimes at 50% of the agreed market rate.

We have organised and fought that exploitation working politically to change European law.

But now the game has changed and with it we will all be faced with very difficult decisions.

The Prime Minister of the UK has been poncing around Europe seeking an agreement to cut the rights of working people in Britain.

Not exactly a shock to us that Cameron and the business interests that he represents see most European employment and social protection rights as unnecessary and a burden on business.

How inconvenient it is for them to be required to pay workers for holidays or have those interfering EU bureaucrats getting involved in the protection of workers health.

It is shameful that a British prime minister should be prostituting himself for the pimps at the CBI begging other European heads of government to make British workers the second class citizens of the European world of work.

Cameron should be telling Europe to stop the exploitation that umbrella employment agencies have brought to the UK.

Exploitation like that taking place at the SITA power plant in Teeside, where Unite and GMB are campaigning for all workers on that site to get the correct rate for the job. Working alongside UK based workers.

So we know existing EU protections are being eroded but this latest government sponsored attack on the whole tenet of social Europe.

Brings those of us previously in the yes to Europe camp to the edge of fundamental change. The balance has gone, now a naked attempt by this government to remove fundamental rights will force us to ask ourselves a difficult for some question.

If Cameron secures the sort of cuts to worker’s rights he is seeking – will you be able to stand up and say to members and beyond that ‘yes – we know your protection under the working time directive and rights to proper earning on holiday pay are going, yes – we know crucial rights for agency workers are going, that health and safety laws designed to protect the work life balance are being denied to you, that free trade agreements threaten your job and your public services. But forget all that - We want you to vote yes to support these attacks.

The CBI, politicians, even no doubt some of our own members will issue warnings about the impact of potential job losses if a Brexit occurs.

My answer is simple,

CBI – stop calling for cuts to worker’s rights or take the possible backlash.

To Cameron and Osbourne – this is not about appeasing your euro sceptic back benchers.

It’s about dumping on working people of the UK and doing the bidding of a business lobby looking for more opportunity to make Britain an exploitation haven.

A very clear warning and a simple but inescapable truth - be careful what you wish for. It’s a very big mistake to take the TUC or any affiliate here for granted.

Let’s send a clear message – we will not be complicit in cutting worker’s rights in the UK.

4 Statement on EU from Paul Kenny GMB General Secretary October 2014

Vision for EU hijacked

Politicians hostile to the EU have tapped into concerns over more fundamental problems about Europe that we have to face up to. Whatever the European vision was on integration, harmony, economic advancement and political stability, what we currently have isn’t it.

The free movement of labour and the single market were to be balanced by the social charter where all the people of Europe would live in freedom and with those in the poorer economies, benefitting from the harmonisation of standards across all member states. There were to be standards on workers protection, TUPE, excessive hours, health & safety, information and consultation and so many others were meant to keep labour exploitation in check.

The Working Time Directive provide for the right to a minimum 28 day of paid holidays each year, a 20 minute rest breaks after 6 hours work, rest of at least 11 hours in any 24 hours; restricts excessive night work; 24 hours off after seven day of work; and provides for a right to work no more than 48 hours per week over a cycle.

The Working Time Directive is not “red tape” as the CBI assert. It was brought in to outlaw the excessive hours that were identified as the direct cause of the Clapham Junction rail disaster where 35 people died and 500 people were injured on 12 December 1988.

The collision was caused by a signal failure due to a wiring fault. An Independent inquiry, chaired by Anthony Hidden, QC, found that the signalling technician responsible had worked a seven-day week for the previous thirteen weeks.

The Agency Workers Directive provide that basic employment and working conditions for temporary and  agency workers – after they have been there for 12 weeks-  should be equal to those of a directly employed worker doing the same job in the firm they work in.

That dream has been chipped away at for years. Right wing governments and employer have engineered massive change in the direction of the EU vision. Judgements in the European Courts like Viking and Laval were the green light to massive assaults on organised labour across Europe, but especially in the UK.

 From Lindsey Oil refinery to food production we have seen workers recruited in certain member states by agencies and exploited. They were shipped in “literally” in order to undermine the terms and conditions of existing workers on those contracts. Both sets of workers have been let down by UK Government, the EU Commission and the European Court.

On exploitation – don’t blame the exploited; damn those who exploit. This has been repeated up and down the country over recent years. And that is part of the discontent that UKIP turn into xenophobic rhetoric to win votes.

Look past the simplistic tag and face the challenge of exploitation. Let’s reach out to those migrant workers not attack them, but organise and protect them.

Too many workers go to work fearful about exercising their basic rights. A new Labour Government working with the EU has to create a workplace without fear and equip the trade unions to enforce it.  The challenge for Labour in government is to deal with exploitation and harassment of workers which it has ignored for too long. Collective rights are the key to unlock that challenge. Take away our shackles and we will show you what enforcement is all about.

 

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