Tag Archives: Britain

Don’t let the Prime Minister repatriate workers’ rights

28 Jan

Speaking later today at a conference in Madrid, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady will appeal for the help of unions across Europe in persuading their governments to resist David Cameron’s attempt to ‘repatriate’ workers’ rights.

The new head of the TUC will say that if the Prime Minister gets his way over Europe, British workers, who already face the harshest anti-trade union laws in Europe, will lose out. The General Secretary’s words come after Nick Clegg expressed reservations about Cameron’s plans for the EU,  warning his coalition partner that a promise to hold a referendum on EU membership risked damaging the already weak economy. Clegg, in further signs of coalition unrest, dismissed prospects of securing a significant renegotiation around the EU and suggested Cameron should concentrate on the economy – which risks slumping into a triple-dip recession.

Speaking at the ETUC event, Frances O’Grady will say: “Last week, the British Prime Minister made a speech which you may have heard about. To some people outside the UK, the logic of his argument may not have been entirely clear.

“Like the last Conservative Prime Minister, John Major, David Cameron has a problem – not so much with Europe as with his own party. He has now promised – if re-elected in 2015 – to hold a referendum on British membership of the EU, which he says he wants to win.
“What David Cameron is doing – if putting internal party management above the national and European interest wasn’t bad enough – is even more sinister.

“As well bringing the prospect of an unprecedented triple-dip recession even closer, the UK government is making the most vulnerable pay for a crisis they didn’t cause, and is set on a wholesale scrapping of workers’ rights.

“The government has already made it easier for employers to sack people they don’t like and more difficult for workers to get justice before the courts. Now it is trying to abolish wage protection for farm workers, and stop people injured at work getting their rightful compensation.

“But there’s one set of workers’ rights David Cameron can’t touch. Those are the rights provided for by social Europe – paid holidays, health and safety, equal treatment for part-time workers and women, protection when a business is sold off, and a voice at work.

“The Prime Minister wants to ‘repatriate’ those rights, and not because he thinks he can improve them! David Cameron wants to make it easier for bad employers to undercut good ones, drive down wages, and make people who already work some of the longest hours in Europe work even longer. To do that, he needs agreement from the rest of Europe. And when the UK government calls on your government to give him the chance to undermine British workers’ rights, we want your governments to say no. Not just out of solidarity with us, but in the interests of your own rights, your own wages, and your own jobs.

“British working people are looking to their colleagues around Europe to work with us. Trade unions are all about solidarity, about working together in the common interest. We must make common cause to defeat David Cameron’s attack on working people and Social Europe.


“As trade unionists, we have a crucial role to play in winning the argument for an alternative. Our focus must not just be on jobs but on good jobs that pay a decent wage, that help build sustainable demand, and that give opportunity to those who need it most. Only collective bargaining can deliver this.

“Together we must make the case for a worker’s and citizen’s Europe, not a banker’s and financier’s Europe. If the EU is only about fiscal austerity, open markets and privatisation, then ordinary Europeans will increasingly question its legitimacy – and rightly so.

“For a generation, Europe prospered by balancing the interests of business and those of workers. It’s time to rediscover that bargain – and the sense of solidarity that underpins it.”


Where there’s the political will there’s another (Welsh) way

30 Mar

by Hannah Blythyn

This is a short tale of two cities – London and Cardiff – and the ever expanding political gulf between the two. First we go to London, home to the UK Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition government.  A coalition that is presiding over swingeing cuts – to public sector jobs, pay and pensions, to local services, to the tax credits that many families rely on to make ends meet and much, much more. A government that has hiked up tuition fees to astronomical levels and destroyed the NHS in England as we know it. A Conservative led administration – with the Liberal Democrats complicit in coalition – hell bent on rolling back employment rights on unfair dismissal and access to tribunals and chipping away at the health and safety legislation that protects people from injury or worse in the workplace.

Lest we forget, as unemployment across the UK reaches record highs one of the first acts of the UK coalition in the heady honeymoon days was to axe the Future Jobs Fund. Then this month they announced a freeze in the minimum wage for workers aged 18-21 years old.

They say that there is no alternative to the road they are travelling and the agenda of austerity.  But just a couple of hours away (on the not yet electrified West Coast mainline) we arrive in Cardiff and the base of the Welsh Labour government. This is a government that has been consistent in its principle to keep privatisation out of the NHS, proud to declare “The NHS made in Wales, is safe in Wales”. The same government that unlike their UK counterparts, has refused to raise university tuition fees to £9k a year for Welsh domiciled students and almost immediately after getting elected last year set about bringing in Jobs Growth Wales. Jobs Growth Wales is a £75 million scheme to create 4,000 jobs a year across Wales for unemployed young people aged 16 to 24. Participants are paid at or above the minimum wage for at least 25 hours a week, not simply supporting young people into work but helping Welsh businesses to expand and having a positive knock on effect on the economy as a whole.

This builds on the earlier Welsh government initiatives such as Pro-Act and Re-Act to help employees and employers in the private sector when the recession started to kick in.  The Welsh Government may not have responsibility for employment rights but it places great emphasis on social partnership with the trade unions and is demonstrating a commitment to the social responsibility of employers.

It goes without saying, that in the current economic climate there remain challenges in Wales but devolved politics is demonstrating that it does not have to be the worst of times as the UK coalition would have you believe.

The Welsh Government’s commitment to investing in the next generation and supporting people into decent work, despite existing economic constraints and a dramatically diminished budget from the UK government, is an actual alternative to the austerity and cuts agenda of the UK coalition. Going one step beyond, it makes clear the policy options out there for a future UK Labour administration and flies the flag for more positive and active labour market polices

On that note, I’ll leave the final word to the most senior elected Labour politician in the UK and the Welsh First Minister’s take on the UK government’s mis-handing of the fuel non-strike: http://www.itv.com/news/wales/update/2012-03-29/calm-down-first-minister-tells-uk-government/ 

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