Watch: Why we’re voting to Remain in the EU – by ordinary workers

GMB chief warns of '72 hours to save workers' rights'


The head of one of Britain’s largest trade unions has warned there are ‘just 72 hours to save workers’ rights’ by voting Remain in Thursday’s EU referendum.

Tim Roache, general secretary of GMB, highlighted remarks by chief Leave campaigners – including Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage – trashing key EU protections for working people.

It comes as the union released a video of ordinary workers saying how EU rules have improved their workplace rights, and why they are voting to Remain.

Since April, the union has contacted thousands of its more than 640,000 members to understand the real concerns of working people in Britain.

Its polling found that:

  • One in three GMB members said the best reason to stay in the EU is to protect workplace rights such as paid holiday, parental leave, and health and safety at work.

  • 18 to 34-year-olds said security, justice and human rights, jobs and trade, and employment regulations are more important to them in deciding how to vote than immigration.
  • Four in ten GMB members said EU impact on security, justice and human rights were their most important issue – the same number as those who gave immigration as their top issue.

A vote to Remain in the EU is backed by Britain’s biggest trade unions, including Unison, Unite, the Trades Union Congress, the CWU, the TSSA, and USDAW.

Leaders of ten unions wrote a joint letter earlier this month urging their six million members to vote Remain on Thursday.

Tim Roache said:

‘From chemical plants to supermarkets, people told us that they are genuinely concerned about what Brexit would mean for their job security and their rights at work.’

Tim Roache GMB
Tim Roache, GMB general secretary

The GMB also pointed to hair-raising quotes from top Brexit campaigners on dumping workers’ rights.

Michael Gove described paternity leave as ‘job destroying’ in a column for the Times in 2000, while Boris Johnson in the Telegraph in 2014 said it was time to ‘root out the nonsense of the social chapter – the working time directive and the atypical work directive and other job-destroying regulations’.

In 2013 Johnson said small businesses were getting a ‘raw deal’ with regulations, ‘paternity leave being the latest example’. And Nigel Farage has told the BBC he would axe ‘much of’ racical discrimination law.

Roache added:

‘In the past, leading figures from the Leave campaign have said they believe EU legislation that protects workers’ rights is ‘job destroying’.

Their intentions are absolutely clear. We’ve got just 72 hours to save workers’ rights, by voting to Remain in the European Union.

For me it’s an angry Remain. I recognise Europe is far from perfect but the only way we can rebalance that is to be in the European Union, shaping reform for working people.’

You can find out more about the GMB’s reasons for backing Remain here. 

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