Government 'setting fire to workers’ rights'

Protections during pregnancy and from hazardous chemicals among thousands of laws facing government axe

Reading time: 4 min

The government is being accused today of `setting fire’ to workers’ rights’ in its forever war against UK workers which will see them become ever poorer amid a chronic cost of living crisis.

Unite has hit out as the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill returns to Parliament for its report stage today (January 18).

The union says that the bill will destroy long-standing protections for workers including on holiday pay, pregnancy and equality, as well as in health and safety where it plans to remove laws that prevent exposure to hazardous materials in the workplace.

With no word yet on whether or not the government will weaken the EU laws or simply just sweep away thousands of pieces of long-standing laws at the end of the year, Unite says that the government risks plunging workers and employers into chaos.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary said, “It seems that this government is dead set on waging a forever class war against workers and their communities.

“They aim to make UK workers poorer and less safe at work – all to boost employers’ profit margins,” she added. “Their failure to propose suitable replacement measures to the European regulations will plunge workplaces into chaos.

“Unite will be the frontline, keeping workers safe at work, defending their jobs pay and conditions.”

Unite says that the bill could see:

• Limits on holiday pay. Current EU law ensures that workers do not just receive basic pay but get commissions and regular overtime taken into consideration.

• Erosion of equal treatment rights, including basic terms and conditions, for agency, part-time and others in atypical work.

• Discrimination law weakened as EU case law will no longer apply or form precedent, including laws that prevent discrimination against pregnant workers and ensure equal treatment at work for agency workers, for example.

• The removal of laws which ban the use of certain harmful chemicals in the workplace, putting industrial cleaners at a greater risk.

• Weaker consumer protections. The ban on chlorinated chicken will no longer apply. Contrary to UK government claims that chlorinated chicken is barely used in America, where there is also no ban, our union counterparts tell us that chlorinated chicken makes up roughly 75-80% of the US market.

The government is also granting itself “Henry VIII” powers which will enable it to weaken laws without proper parliamentary scrutiny but there is no scope for laws to be strengthened.

By Ciaran Naidoo