2021-01-15 13:59

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UK Betrayed By Johnson's Broken Promise Not To Attack Worker's Rights After Brexit

* Unionsafety warned that Johnson would attack worker's rights following Brexit *

*Johnson’s plan - decimate Workers’ Rights, slash Holiday Pay entitlements, end rest breaks, force longer work hours*

Pic: Benny JohnsonSo it begins! The promised attack upon worker's rights and the de-regulation of employment terms and conditions with the intent to the re-aligning from the EU protections in preference to the US employment laws model of minimal protection; is now underway.

Those supporting Brexit, including some Trade Union officials, ignored the fact that without Brexit, the Tories would not be able to diverge from EU Law, making their attack on worker's rights and health & safety at work perfunctory at best.

Now with an 80 seat majority and our undemocratic 'first past the post' (FPTP) election system, the ability to defend legislation that protects working people from bad employers and unhealthy and dangerous working environments and work practices, including terms and conditions of employment; is practically nil and void!

History shows that complacency and waiting for a Labour Government, does not guarantee any reversal of Tory Government policies and legislation; with health & safety at work enforcement bodies e.g. the HSE being a prime example; is a serious error.

Successive Labour Governments have attacked the HSE, left Thatcher's anti-trade union legislation intact; and rarely seen a Labour PM support working people's fight for justice in all its forms.

Whilst the FT reported today on the fact that the Tory Government is preparing policy changes to employee protection legislation simply be repealing the Working Time Directive, Evolve Politics website goes into more details of Johnson's plans, none of which will be of surprise to readers of this Unionsafety website.

The news report claims that "secretive plans are also predicted to benefit wealthy bosses to the tune of billions whilst severely impacting the take-home pay of many ordinary workers."

Labelled as both 'Red Tape' and a 'barrier to business' the worker rights now under threat are:

Working Time Directive which guarantees:

Pic: FT article > a written employment contract,

> paid annual leave,

> paid holidays,

> paid sick leave,

> limit of 48 hrs working week,

> right to refuse over-time working,

> paid travel time

> agency workers rights

This list is not all inclusive.

In addition, all legislation, including the Employment Rights Act 1996 which contains section 44, giving workers the right to remove themselves from any dangerous environment or work procedure whilst at work if they consider their health and safety; is at risk of being watered down or repealed altogether.

Other legislation dealing with maternity rights, night time working, equality and discrimination are all at risk from this Government as it diverges from EU employment standards in favour of the US limited workers protection and takes a non-precautionary stance.

Responding to these media reports, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“The government promised that it would strengthen workers’ rights – not weaken them.
Working-class voters rely on their precious paid holiday, and safety measures like rest breaks and limits on working time.

Rather than threatening hard-won rights, the prime minister should make good on his promises to his voters. And the best way to do that is to bring forward the long-awaited employment bill, to make sure everyone is treated fairly at work."

Frances added:

"During the 2019 election, the prime minister promised the largest upgrade to workers’ rights in a generation. The new business secretary should get on with that rather than looking to the notorious anti-worker pamphlet Britannia Unchained."

During the December 2019 general election the Government were accused of wanting to diminish worker's rights and repeal or water down existing protective legislation, including health & safety legislation.

Boris Johnson vehemently denied any such thing would happen if elected, and promised 'better and stronger' protections for working people:

When challenged a spokesperson for the PM was quoted in website Politics Home on 17th December 2019 as saying:

"The manifesto on which he won a majority made clear that that would be done in parallel to the Withdrawal Agreement and the issue will be dealt with in its own legislation. 

Once Brexit is done, we will continue to lead the way and set a high standard, building on existing employment law with measures which protect those in low paid work. This is on top of the largest upgrade to workers' rights in a generation that the Government is bringing forward."

A senior government official said:

"The Prime Minister won't be doing anything at all that downgrades workers' rights. He is going to be enhancing workers' rights. He will be doing nothing to diminish them."

The Government claims that following a review by the business community, changes are needed, but the Government's own website listing policy papers and consultation shows only two items which relate to worker's rights:

1. Policy paper entitled ' Good Work Plan' which relates to the review by Matthew Taylor and was published on 17th December 2018.

2. Policy paper entitled 'Protecting and enhancing worker rights after the UK withdrawal from the European Union' which was published on 6th March 2019.

Neither of these policy papers are current Government policy or have resulted in legislation and therefore are both totally open to being replaced by the type of legislation discussed in the FT report and which will diminish completely the protection of working people.

Given the PM's record in telling lies and changing his mind on a sixpence, he clearly often does the opposite of what he claims he will do, relying on word games to hide his true intentions!

Here is Evolve Politics take on this:

'Boris Johnson’s Conservative government are set to break one of their key post-Brexit promises after plans to decimate YOUR rights at work – including laws to slash holiday pay entitlements, bin rest breaks, and allow bosses to force you to work longer hours – were leaked following meetings between Senior Tory officials and big business Chiefs.'

The article goes further:

Areas being targeted for divergence from EU regulations within the documents reportedly include plans to slash holiday pay entitlements, binning laws on mandatory rest breaks, and scrapping the 48-hour Working Time Directive – an EU rule which currently prevents bosses from forcing employees to work excruciatingly long hours, and which workers currently have power over.'

Labour Minister and former leader of the party, Ed Miliband, described the plans as a “disgrace“ on Twitter:

"This leak exposes the truth about the Government's priorities, which are way out of step with the needs of workers and their families. In the midst of the worst economic crisis in three centuries, ministers are
preparing to take a sledgehammer to workers’ rights." he posted.

He continued:

"These proposals are not about cutting red tape for businesses but ripping up vital rights for workers. People are already deeply worried about their jobs and health. It's a disgrace the Government is considering forcing them to work longer hours or lose paid holidays."

Concluding he said:

" The Government wants Britain to compete on the back of ordinary working people losing their rights. Labour will fight tooth and nail against them. This is a fight about who we are as a country and how we succeed."


Whilst he is no doubt sincere, there is absolutely nothing he or anyone in Parliament can do!

With an 80 seat majority given to Boris Johnson's extreme and autocratic right-wing Government, the working people voting in the North and North East of England, have handed him a blank cheque to destroy the rights of working people of the whole of the UK!

Working Time and employment protection legislation is available to download here

No doubt one the country's leading Trade Unions, the CWU, will be amongst the first to respond to these Government plans and when it does, Unionsafety will publish it in full.

Source: TUC / FT / EvolvePolitics / Gov Legislation and Consultation websites / unionsafety

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