With prime minister Theresa May set, within weeks, to trigger the process by which the UK begins its exit from the European Union, the country’s biggest trade union, Unite, has today (Friday 3 March) urged working people to ‘sound the alarm’ if Brexit threatens their jobs and living standards.
The call comes as the UK automotive industry - where Unite has tens of thousands of members in plants and through the supply chain - indicates a reluctance to commit to the UK as doubt deepens over the government’s stance on access to the single market and continuing membership of the customs union.
The union says it is also receiving early indications of Brexit having a direct impact in the workplace. Members at one company have reported that they are being prevented from undertaking union negotiations with EU colleagues by their UK employer who says that it no longer sees any value in cross-border working relations. Another national employer attempted to walk away from talks over holiday pay in the wake of the Brexit vote.
Unite says that monitoring the impact of the uncertainty swirling around the UK’s new future outside of the remaining 27 member states will identify problems for pay, conditions, investment and jobs as it continues its fight for a Brexit that works for working people.
In creating its online tool – BrexitCheck – Unite pledges to offer a ‘worker’s-eye’ view of the most important debates and decisions facing the country and its communities for generations.
Launching the website, Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Unite has members in all the nations of these isles, giving us a unique perspective on the Brexit process.
“Decisions made in the coming months will direct the course of our nations and people for many years to come, which is why Unite is determined that the voice of working people will be heard.
“People may have voted to be out of Europe, they did not vote to be poorer or out of work. That is why we are urging members to sound the alarm, or even report on positive developments, when Brexit impacts on their workplace and their communities.
“Top of our list is that the UK must retain access to the single market and membership of the customs union. It is abundantly clear that the jobs, core industries and prosperity of all four nations of the UK rely heavily on this access - so for the prime minister to stubbornly refuse to make this her priority is reckless because it places this country and its people on a very uncertain road.
“Along that road we will also have to fight to retain the rights of working people. Whatever the prime minister may say about preserving workers’ rights, there are too many in her party licking their lips at the prospect of a low tax, low pay, no rights UK for workers to feel at all confident about the country that will emerge after 2019.
“We will carry on, too, the fight to convince the government to end its repugnant treatment of EU migrants living in, working in and contributing to our country. Human beings should not be used as bargaining chips and the government’s determination to do so diminishes the UK in the eyes of the world.”
BrexitCheck is Unite’s online resource dedicated to bringing the news, views, facts and analysis on the negotiations for the UK to leave the European Union.
Those seeking to let Unite know about Brexit-related changes to their workplaces can do so via the dedicated BrexitCheck contact page.
For further information please contact Pauline Doyle on 07976 832861.
Notes to editors:
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.