Delegates at the policy conference of Britain and Ireland’s largest union, Unite backed a statement on Europe from the union’s executive council today (Wednesday 13 July), which demanded trade union input into the ‘Brexit’ negotiations.
Warning that workers must not pay the price for Brexit the statement said that Unite would: “Oppose a ‘Brexit’ that reduces trade union rights, excludes Britain from the EU single market and fails to deal fairly with the difficult issue of the free movement of labour, which requires further debate in the trade union movement.
“We further need to ensure that the British and Irish governments do not launch a race to the bottom in terms of social protection, workers’ rights, and corporate tax – and do not allow multi-national capital to play one government off against the other.”
Recognising the concerns felt by Unite members and millions of other working people expressed in the referendum over austerity and other issues such as the abuse of the free movement, the statement went on to say: “The referendum result was as much a rebuke to an out of touch political and economic elite as it was about the EU itself. However, those who led the ‘Leave’ campaign clearly have no idea as to how to give effect to its result or cope with the economic consequences of the decision.”
Passing the statement delegates asked Unite to focus on the three key priorities of defending Unite members’ jobs, the protection of employment rights and opposing the racist backlash unleashed by the vote to leave the European Union.
Concluding the statement went on to say: “Working people must be given the chance to choose their path out of the crisis. This will demand new policy responses, not least to the deprivation and alienation caused by six years of austerity and thirty years of deindustrialisation, and we look to Labour to give a lead on meeting those challenges in the interests of working people.”
Moving the statement Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “While we’re clear that there should be no rush into ‘Brexit’ discussions or the triggering of Article 50, we will demand a seat at any ‘Brexit’ table.
“We have a voice, role and demands to make during any negotiations on behalf of millions of working people. We’re ready to work constructively where we can with employers and the government to confront job losses and secure future investment – to retain skills and campaign for new work.
“The cost of ‘Brexit’ will not be paid by working people and we will oppose a ‘Brexit’ that reduces trade union rights or excludes us from the single market.”