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Leaked Government Documents Confirm Tory Gov Plans To Destroy Workers' Rights
After Brexit

The above headline makes the idea that any Trade Union would standby and support leaving the EU, even if there was to be a Labour Government in power at the time, seem anathema to the principles the Trade union movement holds dear.

Pic: Camerons HS funeral svces by BrexitMany point out that Labour Government's does not have the best of records in supporting Trade Union rights, with the majority of Thatcher’s anti-trade union legislation remaining intact throughout the years of the last Labour government.

Add to that when it comes to workplace health & safety, that same government slashed the budget of the HSE by a minimum of 25%, and brought in the Regulatory Reform Act, currently being blamed for the lack of fire protection and risk assessments on the material used in the cladding on buildings, which played a major role in the Grenfell Fire tragedy that killed residents of that tower block.

The extent to which the UK’s Tory government might go in removing EU regulations in the future and aligning more with the US, making us an economic competitor to the EU, remains a big issue in the Brexit debate.

There is no doubt that in order to successfully negotiate a UK/US trade deal, worker's rights will have to be aligned with that of the USA, more by Tory aspirations than insistencve by the United states!

Furthermore, Tory dreams of a totally de-regulated economic environment in the UK, along with a low tax economy; is the true aim of the likes of the ERG and the extremists now in Boris Johnson's cabinet.

In a policy document entitled “Update to EPSG on level playing field negotiations” future intentions in negotiations involving worker's rights contradict comments made by Mr Johnson on Wednesday when he said the UK was committed to “the highest possible standards” for workers’ rights and environmental standards.

The issue will further bog-down talks, when the UK begins the next phase of talks with the EU to forge a new trade deal, simply because the EU has already warned that Britain’s prospects of getting a future trade deal with the EU depends upon it continuing to uphold EU standards. 

Now due to Brexit, EU Regulations such as those listed below, are under major threat from an extreme right-wing Tory Government now embedded in the philosophy of the ERG (so called European Research Group):

* The working time directive, which limits the number of hours people can work
* Maximum amounts of particular pollutants there can be in the air
* Requirements for workers doing the same jobs to be paid equally
* Workplace health & safety regulations and standards

These set minimum standards below which a Tory UK government cannot go.

Pic: FT headlineNow, this weekend, the Financial Times, has reported on leaked government documents that say “that the drafting of commitments on workers' rights and the environment in the Brexit deal "leaves room for interpretation".

The Withdrawal Agreement that Boris Johnson wants to get through Parliament is vastly different from Theresa May’s agreement I that it has removed ALL reference to keeping ‘a level playing field’ of worker’s rights and adhering to the EU standards concerned.

However, Johnson’s revised political declaration says that the UK and the EU should "uphold the common high standards... in the areas of state aid, competition, social and employment standards, environment, climate change, and relevant tax matters".

This is a far cry from the commitment to the protection of worker’s rights, previously within the text of May’s Withdrawal Agreement which the ERG and other Tory factions would not agree, and precisely because of this commitment, given that a leading ERG member, Rees-Mogg has previously stated that worker’s rights in India which are far less than those of the UK, are fine for Indian workers and therefore would be fine for UK worker’s.

Pic: Independent newspaper headlineThe Canary News website reported this in December 2016:

Jacob Rees-Mogg said regulations that were “good enough for India” could be good enough for the UK – arguing that the UK could go “a very long way” to rolling back high EU standards.

“We could, if we wanted, accept emissions standards from India, America, and Europe. There’d be no contradiction with that,” Mr Rees-Mogg said.
“We could say, if it’s good enough in India, it’s good enough for here. There’s nothing to stop that.
“We could take it a very long way. American emission standards are fine – probably in some cases higher. 

“I accept that we’re not going to allow dangerous toys to come in from China, we don’t want to see those kind of risks. But there’s a very long way you can go.”

The MP's comments came in the context of a discussion about trade deals with other countries following Brexit.

Subsequent to this, numerous Tory MPs have attacked worker’s rights and made it clear their true aim is to align UK laws with those of the US in order to ensure a UK/US trade deal and to vastly deregulate the UK labour environment and economy.

Labour's shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer has previously, and again this weekend, accused the government of pursuing "a licence to deregulate" the economy in the future, and warned that without a declaration to commit the UK to maintaining that ‘level playing field’ when it comes to worker’s rights, any future governments can choose to align this country with the standards of the US as part of any Trade Deal with them.

He also warned that in the United States the statutory holiday entitlement was a max of 10 days per year and companies "had far more power than the workforce".

Labour said it is a "blueprint" for ending "vital rights and protections".

The Financial Times news item explains further:

“The leaked paper suggests that the government believes there is considerable scope to diverge from the EU on employment rights and other regulations after Brexit, despite its pledge to maintain a "level playing field" in Boris Johnson's latest deal.

Pic: Revised Withdrawl Agreement text - click to downloadIn Mr Johnson's Brexit deal, references to a level playing field - the idea that the UK and EU countries keep their rules and standards close to prevent one trying to gain a competitive advantage - were removed from the legally binding withdrawal agreement.

Instead, they were put into the non-binding "political declaration", which describes the potential future relationship between the UK and EU.

According to the FT, the leaked document says the UK's and EU's interpretation of the "level playing field" pledge will be "very different", and the text represents a "much more open starting point" for negotiations over a future trade deal.

Purportedly drafted by the Brexit department, the paper appears to contradict promises by the prime minister on Wednesday that the UK is committed to the "highest possible standards" for the environment and rights at work.

It comes as EU leaders consider their decision on a new deadline for Brexit, having agreed to an extension in principle after the UK government admitted it could not meet its 31 October deadline.

The document will fuel fears among some in the EU that Boris Johnson is planning to shape Britain into a Singapore-style economy, with low taxes and light regulation, which could compete against Europe by potentially downgrading rights.”

Labour's shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer accused the government of pursuing "a licence to deregulate" the economy in the future.

Suggestions that workers' rights could be diluted will also raise concerns among those 19 Labour MPs, who voted for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to progress in the House of Commons, and believed Caroline Flint’s claims that the Government has made ‘promises’ over maintaining existing worker’s rights.

Pic: BBC News headlinesLabour shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman is quoted by the Financial Times as saying the leaked documents "confirm our worst fears".

She said: "Boris Johnson's Brexit is a blueprint for a deregulated economy, which will see vital rights and protections torn up."

Trade Unions supporting Labour’s previous aims to force a General Election and then obtain a ‘Brexit for jobs’ withdrawal agreement, including the CWU and Unite, pointed out that future Labour government’s would never sell out on worker’s rights and that the EU are not ‘guardians of worker’s rights’ as many claim.

They ignore the fact that no UK government would have brought in workplace health & safety regulations such as Display Screen Regulations, Workplace Health & Safety Regulations and Working Time Regulations; and that British Trade Unions were very successful in lobbying for such regulations in the EU.

They also ignore the fact that any future trade deal with the US following Brexit, threatens every single employment right and legislation in the UK, because US employment law allows "higher and fire at will' employment, allowing US employers to terminate an employment contract without notice, for any reason whatsoever!

Indeed, those complaining about heath & safety risks and irregularities, find themselves sacked! Legal in the USA, but not in the UK, although this is becomong more of a risk aready.

Pic: FT headlines on divergence from workers rightsWhilst it is up to the British people to reject any attempt to removing these regulations, by voting in or out such a Government that would do this, the reality is that in any General Election the true policies of political parties may not necessarily be published, and in any case very few voters actually read party manifestos, leaving themselves exposed to the Tory supporting right wing TV news and tabloid press which in the main slam Trade Unions and worker’s rights; promoting Tory aims of ensuring minimum regulation on business.

For many worker's the risk to workplace health and safety standards and that of worker's rights in general, is too great and making them a hostage to the fortune and political ambitions of a future government in a country that votes far more Tory governments into power than Labour ones; is far too great to even contemplate leaving the EU.

Source: BBC News / Financial Times / The Canary / The Independent

See also: Is It Time For Labour To Re-Think It's Stance On Brexit?

 



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