TUC: “Ministers must quickly bring forward the long-awaited employment bill to enhance workers’ rights”.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady

The TUC has called on the government to urgently build on the UK-EU trade deal, which it says “falls far short” of the deal ministers promised.   

The call comes as the deal was voted through in the House of Commons by MPs.

Divergence on workers’ rights now a real threat  

The TUC has warned that the deal’s flimsy protections on workers’ rights would fail to prevent the government pursuing a deregulatory agenda.

And it says without further action, jobs are under threat, UK workers’ rights risk falling behind and our public services face further austerity cuts.

Responding to the deal last week, the TUC said that it is “better than nothing, but not by much”.

In particular, the TUC highlights non-tariff barriers which would heighten production costs and thus pose a threat to jobs.

The union body says the government now needs to urgently build on this agreement with a new approach to trade deals that puts decent work at the top of the agenda, and a domestic strategy that supports investment in jobs and industries.

A plan to protect jobs, rights and public services 

The TUC has set out a ten point plan to fix the shortcomings of the UK-EU deal and protect jobs, rights and public services.

The union body calls on the government to:

Protect jobs:

•Help our hard-pressed manufacturing sector cope with the new barriers this deal will create, with a package to rival the best in Europe – investing at least £10bn to build supply chain capacity and resilience, green the sector, and create jobs across the UK, supported by proven workplace training programmes to skill up the workforce.

•Hire the 50,000 customs officers needed to ensure border crossings are as speedy and friction-free as possible.

•Implement a new state aid regime that supports companies struggling to keep afloat with the hit their businesses is taking both from coronavirus and from the new trading arrangements.

•Get back to the negotiating table to protect our service industry, with an additional service agreement to get closer to pre-Brexit market access, including mutual recognition of qualifications. Government should be ready to bargain greater regulatory alignment to protect service sector jobs.

Protect rights:

•Get going on the promise to ‘protect and enhance rights’ by bringing forward the long-awaited employment bill, including a pledge to end zero-hours contracts.

•Give guarantees that no existing rights will be watered down, now or in the future, and that workers’ rights in the UK will be at least as good as those in the EU.

•Ensure workers are not priced out of justice by guaranteeing there will be no re-introduction of employment tribunal fees.

Protect public services:

•Ensure health and social care will be protected from privatisation in any trade deal by setting this out in a joint interpretive instrument.

•Support decent jobs through social clauses in public procurement to drive up employment, labour standards, skills and environmental outcomes.

•Increase funding for overstretched public services, fill the current 600,000 vacancies, and don’t freeze public sector pay.

The TUC has also criticised the government for failing to adequately consult with unions during trade talks and has called on the government to ensure unions have a seat at the table in any further trade negotiations.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“This agreement falls far short of the deal the government promised. 

“Ministers need to plug the gaps. A tough EU exit in the middle of a pandemic will hit workers hard when we already face the grim prospect of mass unemployment. 

“If the government fails to build on this agreement, jobs will be at risk, hard-won rights will be on the line and our public services will be starved of much-needed investment. 

“Government has been telling us for years that they can’t support industry because of EU rules. There are no more excuses. Ministers must now prove that the new relationship really means better support for manufacturing jobs. 

“The UK needs an industrial strategy with real investment behind it that creates good quality green jobs. And ministers must quickly bring forward the long-awaited employment bill to enhance workers’ rights.”

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