A clarion call to engage members, employers and politicians on the need to secure an EU exit that works for working people was issued at Unite’s East Midlands Brexit conference yesterday (November 29).
The Unite-organised conference, held at Toyota’s Burnaston plant, was attended by reps from the manufacturing, transport and service sectors and included speakers from industry and academia.
Addressing delegates, Unite international director Simon Dubbins said, “Unite has been active in many areas with Brexit. Keir Starmer has listened to us and Labour’s six tests for Brexit are very much in line with where we are.
“We’ve been active in Europe, with our sister unions, and pushing governments to demand that any EU trade deal with the UK maintains workers’ rights and environmental standards. We’ve been active industrially as well, trying to make this a bargaining issue and we have a survey to keep an eye on what companies are doing.
“We will need from you, in the coming weeks and months, a really big effort to get your members up to speed with what’s going on, making sure your company understands and is using its voice to lead politicians and we need you, at the right moment, to ask your MPs about how they’re going to vote on some of these critical issues.”
Toyota HR general manager Dave Richards said the firm shared Unite’s concerns over Brexit uncertainty and the importance of securing a transitional period and need for tariff-free frictionless trade with the EU.
Richards said, “We’re happy to support events such as today with Unite. For all of us, from an industry perspective and from Unite’s perspective, Brexit is a shared challenge. We are actively involved in making our sector’s priorities clear to government and I’m sure you will be doing the same.”
‘Very real risks’
University of Leicester Law professor Adam Cygan, who is head of a project examining Brexit legislation, said it was vital that members are aware of the very real risks to their working rights.
He said, “There’s three things: rights rights rights. If you look at the some of the documents coming out of the department for international trade and Liam Fox’s select committee evidence, it is quite clear there is this Singapore, low-tax, low-rights, low-protection, low-regulation model the government are looking at.
“What I would say, if one looks at the Withdrawal Bill there is an amendment which says that the Henry VIII clauses (allowing government to change laws without parliamentary oversight) cannot be used to change employment, environmental and consumer protection rights. This should be supported on a cross party basis.”