Like many Labour MPs I campaigned tirelessly so that my constituents in Great Grimsby would join me in voting to remain in the EU, but nearly seventy percent of them voted against.
They gave the Government a mandate to leave the European Union, but they did not give the Government a mandate to downgrade the rights of workers.
Despite the warnings from the TUC and others about the potential for workers’ rights to be significantly undermined if we left Europe, the Government has, to date, failed to explain just how they will ensure this does not happen.
That’s why I introduced a Bill to safeguard, in Primary legislation, all the workers’ rights derived from the European Union legislation after the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.
I’m pleased to say that my bill has the full support of the Labour Party.
This Bill was due to debated and voted on in the House only a few weeks ago, but unfortunately many members from the Party opposite blocked it.
So I tabled a series of amendments to the Government’s EU withdrawal bill as another attempt to protect our Workers’ Rights. It is opportunity for this Government to act now, instead of adopting a wait and see attitude.
My amendments would require the Government to actually produce a plan on its steps to ensure EU Worker Rights will be maintained in United Kingdom law before we withdrawal from the EU. Secondly, my amendments make provision so that EU Workers’ Rights continue in force in the United Kingdom on exit day. Lastly, my amendments places in Primary legislation each Workers’ Rights EU Directive. Including rights for agency workers, the European Works Council, Information and Consultation of Employees, Health and Safety, TUPE, the Working Time Directive and Protection of Young People at work.
These amendments are front and centre for many working people who are in an increasingly unstable labour market.
They are protections against discrimination, the right to take rest breaks, a paid holiday, and the right to take leave for working parents. They have become the basic expectations of reasonable employers and have been woven into the fabric of the employment relationship.
They are laws which the EU have been working together with Trade Unions for over forty years.
Laws that have ensured, regardless of the ideology of the Government of the day, hard fought for minimum standards for workers. They have kept these rights a non-negotiable distance away from the potential deregulatory whims of Ministers who may take a view that such rights are no more than cumbersome red tape.
I have been asked why these amendments do not go further, as a Labour MP and former UNISON officer, of course I would love that. But the reality is that this is not about grandiose positioning, it is based in the reality of the situation we face today. The Government’s priority should be to do everything in its power to protect the workers’ rights we already have.
You can read the Workers’ Rights (Maintenance of EU Standards) Bill here: https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2016-2017/0062/cbill_2016-20170062_en_1.htm