The Tories love to make promises on workers’ rights, but Brexit reveals their true colours

At a conference in Gothenburg last week, EU leaders urged Theresa May to commit to an agreement enhancing workers rights.

The Tory government continues to go back on its promises to enhance workers rights — as trade unionists, it’s our responsibility to keep pushing them.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) have called on Theresa May to sign up to stronger protections for workers as she attended the EU Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The Prime Minister told the 2016 Conservative Party Conference: “Existing workers’ legal rights will continue to be guaranteed in law – and they will be guaranteed as long as I am Prime Minister.” Continuing:

“Under this Government, we’re going see workers’ rights not eroded, and not just protected, but enhanced under this Government.”

The problem is that her actions have been the exact opposite. Trade unions do not believe her or her Government.

The proposals that have come forward from the Tories — such as workers on boards and the protections for gig economy workers — aimed at helping those ‘just about managing’ or working in precarious jobs, have been feeble and derided by unions and employment lawyers.

As Frances O’Grady, general secretary TUC pointed out:

“Theresa May broke her promise to working people this week when she instructed her MPs to vote against protections for workers’ rights after we leave the EU”.

EU leaders were asked by the summit host, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, to sign up to enhanced rights for workers. Löfven is a highly respected trade unionist – his previous job was as the president the Swedish metalworkers union.

The European Pillar of Social Rights includes new guaranteed rights to paid parental leave, and new protections for gig economy and zero hours contract workers.

It also commits to principles focused on fair working conditions, including adequate minimum wages, work-life balance, and the right for workers to have a say in decisions that affect their employment.

TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “The Prime Minister must now take steps to win back workers’ trust by signing up to stronger rights for UK workers at the summit in Gothenburg.”

“She must reassure working people that a level playing field for workers’ rights will be written into the Brexit deal. Britain’s workers must not be left to fall behind the rest of Europe when future improvements are made.”

The reality is that the Conservative Government’s Brexit negotiators, the hard Brexiteers are setting set up Brexit legislation aimed at stripping away employment rights gained through the EU and creating a low cost, low wage, employment rights free offshore economy.

Tony Burke is Unite Assistant General Secretary and chair of the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom

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