Unite, GMB and Unison are among the group of 12 major trade unions calling on the Prime Minister to protect rights such as the 48-hour working week following Brexit.
Some of the biggest unions in the UK have joined forces to warn the Prime Minister that they will fight “tooth and nail” to prevent any watering down of workers’ rights after Brexit.
Leaders of trade unions including Unite, GMB and Unison issued the stern warning after the government revealed that it was reviewing the current protections for workers.
Last week the Financial Times revealed that officials are looking at workers’ rights such as the 48-hour cap on the working week and rules on factoring overtime into holiday pay as part of a post-Brexit review.
Although Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng responded by insisting workers’ rights would not be watered down, he did not deny that a review was underway.
Joining forces under the Labour Unions banner, the group of 12 unions said: “It is unconscionable that at a time of immense loss, sadness and uncertainty for our country, when thousands of people are dying each day and we are shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs, that they have prioritised drawing up these plans. The government have long promised that our rights at work would be ‘protected and enhanced’ – they simply have no mandate and no public support for ripping them up.”
The joint statement is signed by Len McCluskey, Unite; Christina McAnea, Unison; Paddy Lillis, USDAW; Warren Kenny, GMB; Dave Ward, CWU; Manuel Cortes, TSSA; Mick Whelan, ASLEF; Roy Rickhuss, Community; Matt Wrack, FBU; Horace Trubridge, MU; Ian Hodson & Sarah Woolley, BFAWU and Chris Kitchen, NUM, and warns the government that: “The whole of the labour movement will fight tooth and nail to protect and extend our rights.”
It reads: “Last week, rumours emerged in the Financial Times that the government has been secretly drawing up plans to water down more of our members’ workplace rights, including on working time inclusive of time spent on-call, rest breaks and paid holiday entitlements. After initially denying the rumours, the Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng confirmed this week that the rumours are true, and government are in fact reviewing workplace protections.
“It is unconscionable that at a time of immense loss, sadness and uncertainty for our country, when thousands of people are dying each day and we are shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs, that they have prioritised drawing up these plans. The government have long promised that our rights at work would be ‘protected and enhanced’ – they simply have no mandate and no public support for ripping them up.
“A loss of basic rights affects everyone. Losing these hard-won rights would lower living standards further after a decade of stagnating pay and growing insecurity, causing working people to further tighten their belts and hold back any economic recovery. Millions of workers are already working crushingly long hours and further removing rights to rest, limits on working hours or disregarding workers time spent on-call endangers not only them, but also puts public safety at risk – no one wants their loved ones to receive care from a chronically overworked nurse or be driven home by an exhausted bus driver.
“Working people are putting themselves in harm’s way every day to keep this country fed, safe, cared for and connected – keeping our country going under unimaginable pressures. With insecurity rife throughout much of our economy we believe this pandemic should be a turning point where working people should have their rights at work strengthened, not threatened. The whole of the labour movement will fight tooth and nail to protect and extend our rights.”
The warning comes after Boris Johnson whipped Tory MPs to abstain last night on a non-binding Labour motion to protect the 48-hour cap on the working week, rest breaks and overtime pay.
Labour’s motion was backed by the House of Commons by 263 votes after the latest Tory abstention, following those on votes on free school meals and cuts to universal credit last week.
Andy McDonald, the shadow employment rights secretary warned that a better deal for workers is essential as the UK emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr McDonald called fo all current employment rights and worker protections to be maintained – including the 48-hour working week – and for legislation to put an end to controversial ‘fire and rehire’ tactics.