Sam Hagglund, general secretary of the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers (EFBWW), which represents 2m members, speaks exclusively to Unite Brexit Check.
On continuing to work closely with EU trade unions during and after Brexit:
It is even more important that Unite is working in our federation and collaborating with fellow trade unionists in other countries.
For instance, Norway’s unions are extremely active in our federation. They go into directives and they participate a lot and that’s because it affects them even though they are outside of the EU. They don’t have a process of having anything to say when EU regulations are being shaped.
The UK might end up in the same situation, even though you don’t have a Norwegian agreement as an end result, which means that you need to have even closer relationship to us – to give your points of view of how do we get the EU rules and regulations to stop exploitation, for example.
If we have that from you or from our affiliates in Germany, which is an EU member, we will work for it as much if it comes from UK unions as from any other.
On the need for a good deal for Britain:
We are trying to work with damage control, so that it won’t be worse than it is today for the workers of the UK. A bad deal would mean that companies invest in other countries and they stop investing in the UK.
That wouldn’t be good for the UK and it wouldn’t be good for the rest of Europe either. It would lead in the end to a kind of employers haven with low conditions and diminished rights compared to the rest of Europe.
The worst scenario I think would be that you give up Europe and you move closer to the Trump administration in the US. That will risk a lot of the achievements that you have gained during the last 25 years in Europe.
A trade deal with the US will definitely not include a lot of the worker protections and health and social protections that you would find in other types of agreements. They would risk being very much employer friendly in a sense that all workers’ priorities are left aside.
On safeguards to defend workers against freedom of movement exploitation:
(The issue of free movement safeguarding) is very important and this is at the core of what we as EFBWW are working for at the European level.
There is now a proposal (to change EU law) that would require equal renumeration for migrant and domestic workers in host countries and that it should be not be possible to circumvent the rules and regulations by making all kinds of fake postings and triangular arrangements with different countries and temporary employment agencies.
That seems to be very much inline with some of the safeguards Unite is proposing for the UK.
Interview edited for length and clarity.