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Labour Party On EU Referendum

Thursday, September 24, 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

Contact: Kathleen Walker Shaw 07841 181 549 or Kamaljeet Jandu 07956 237 178 or GMB press office 07974 251 823 or 07921 289880.

Notes to editors:

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 and a copy of the text of the TUC General Council statement which was carried at the Congress on 15th September 2015.

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

Notes to editors

1 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.

2 Copy of text of General Council Statement

CONGRESS 2015

GENERAL COUNCIL STATEMENT ON EU REFERENDUM

Congress notes that there will be a referendum on Britain's continued membership of the European Union at some time in the next two years. Possibly before the 2016 congress.

Over the years, congress has consistently expressed support for a European union that delivers economic prosperity based on social justice, civil and human rights, equality for all and rights at work. However, two developments in the recent period have called the achievements of The EU into question:

i. The part played by the institutions of the EU in intensifying the crisis in Greece, in demanding the imposition of further neo-liberal measures including extensive privatisation and cuts to welfare and social provisions on that country, and in undermining the policies of its democratically elected government

Ii          The EU's advocacy of CETA, TTIP and similar agreements designed to advance the Interests of transnational capital across Europe, opening up public services to marketisation and privatisation and over-riding the policies of elected governments.

These factors reflect the increasing domination of neo-liberal ideology within the European Union and inevitably prejudice the EU's historic high standing within the labour movement. There is a danger that these factors can only be exacerbated by David Cameron's renegotiation of the terms of Britain's membership. He has made it clear that these include the possibility of a further dilution or even disappearance of EU wide social protections as they apply in Britain.

These protections have included rights for women, part-time, temporary and agency

Workers, rights in situations of redundancy and information and consultation, rights for working parents and a range of health and safety rights, including limitations on excessive hours and the creation of a work-life balance. The positive benefits that the EU has delivered for working people are recognised - rights which are essential in any modern economy - and those rights should be both promoted and strengthened. Congress strongly rejects the attempts being made by the Prime Minister to use the renegotiation process to undermine workers' rights, to foster divisions around migration, and to promote a Europe for financial and business elites only.

Congress believes that conservative attempts to obtain an 'opt-out ' from EU wide

Protections for UK workers, seeking to water down rights - especially the Working Time Directive and the Temporary Agency Workers Directive - and to impose a moratorium on future Employment rights is wrong and counter-productive. Working people, faced with the prospect of a Europe based on insecurity at work and flexibility on employers' terms, will have little enthusiasm to vote and be even less likely if they do to vote to stay in the European Union.

We have also consistently argued that government attempts to restrict benefits for migrants coming from other parts of Europe would herald an attack on everyone's in-work benefits – a view justified by reports this summer. Some employers will always try to use new entrants to the Labour market - women, young workers or migrants to drive down wages, and we believe the EU has a positive role to play in preventing this exploitation by providing a floor of EU wide fundamental rights and labour standards, including the right to collective bargaining and the protection and enforcement of national level collective agreements. Congress believes that the

only effective and acceptable ways to address concerns about free movement are to provide working people with the security against exploitation and undercutting that strong unions and decent rights at work, robustly enforced, would provide; and to expand access to public services and housing, using EU funding that follows migrants so that they can adapt to population changes.

Since the Government announced its plans for the EU Referendum, the TUC has campaigned and lobbied to expose the Government's anti-worker rights agenda; to press employers to accept the need for a high level of workers' rights as the quid pro quo for access to the single market; and to persuade other European Governments to reject the agenda of worse rights for working people, including freedom of movement, that the Prime Minister is more or less openly advocating. We have worked closely with other trade unions across Europe in seeking to ensure that their politicians understand that no concessions will satisfy the Prime Minister's Eurosceptic backbenchers or UKIP, and that such concessions would also undermine support for the European Union in their own countries.

The European Union is Britain's biggest trading partner, and millions of jobs in Britain aligned to that trade and could be put at risk if the UK left the EU. But we deplore the way in which European political leaders have put narrow sectional interests and the economics of austerity ahead of solidarity with countries facing economic crises - in particular Greece, but also Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain - as well as refugees like those fleeing oppression and war on Europe's southern borders. We reject the European Union's support for liberalisation and deregulation, including in trade deals like CETA with Canada and TTIP with the USA, both of which the TUC opposes, measures undermining collective bargaining in eastern and southern Europe and judgements of European courts that undermine negotiated sector level agreements providing minimum labour protections.

The TUC will continue to advocate a positive vision of a people's Europe and reforms that would promote investment for sustainable growth, decent work with good wages and a greater say for people at work. Investment in public infrastructure like social housing, transport, telecommunications and energy efficiency could create 11 million highly skilled and well paid jobs across Europe. Europe needs a pay rise and an adequate floor of enforceable minimum wages to protect the most vulnerable.

In the run up to the EU Referendum, we will continue to campaign and lobby against the Government's attempts to further water down Social Europe. The government and industry needs to understand that neither the TUC position nor the votes of millions of trade unionists can be taken for granted. Workers will not back or support a Europe that fails to protect and enhance the position of working people, citizens and civil society or one that solely works in the narrow interests of global corporations and finance capital. We hope that the Prime Minister's efforts to weaken workers' rights will fail but if they do not, we are issuing a warning to the

Prime Minister: you will lose our members votes to stay in the EU by worsening workers' rights. Once the full results of the renegotiation and timetable for the referendum are known the TUC will take stock of our position. However, both the Prime Minister and CBI should note that should he succeed in further undermining British workers rights pressure to put TUC resources and support in the referendum behind a vote to leave the European Union will intensify dramatically.

 

 

 

 

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