Unions Warn On Great Repeal Bill

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey

UK unions have warned of the dangers of the so-called Great Repeal Bill which will be used to transpose EU legislation into UK law – with unions suspecting the Government will use the bill to water down employment rights gained from Europe.

Unite, said that the Conservative’s 2017 manifesto pledge to eliminate so-called ‘red tape’ makes a nonsense of the prime minister’s vow to protect workers’ rights as Brexit gets underway.

The union is calling for the Primne Minister to reassure the UK’s workers that their rights will not be savaged by a combination of hard-line deregulators on the Tory benches and her party’s determination to deliver on its 2017 manifesto which stated: ‘We will continue to regulate more efficiently through the Red Tape challenge and the one-in, two-out rule.’

With the Repeal bill beginning its journey through parliament today Unite’s, Len McCluskey said: “As we set out on the most important journey for our country in generations, the people of this country need to know that the government has their interests at heart.

“But we start this process with little faith that the Tory party can be trusted with our rights and living standards.

“That is why prime minister Theresa May must state what comes first; her party’s dogmatic determination to destroy regulations, as restated in the manifesto on which she recently stood, or her earlier pledge to protect workers’ rights?

“We urge her to make it abundantly clear today that it is the latter.

“Unless, she can confirm that her government has dropped its wrong-headed manifesto policy of one-in, two-out, then the public cannot trust it to deliver a repeal bill that will be safe from the hardliners on the Tory benches, and her claims to be on the side of working people are simply a nonsense.”

Unite says it is seeking a 66 percent threshold for the removal of any EU legislation protecting workers and living standards to be established, amid fears that elements of the Conservative party are determined to create a low wage, low protection UK out of Europe.

The two-third threshold is a precedent already established as it is required to call a general election out with the fixed five year term parliament.

Len McCluskey added: “We were promised that coming out of the EU would mean taking back control. Instead it looks like it is the government who will be taking all the control, taking unprecedented powers to sweep away vital laws and protections at a whim.

“However people voted in the referendum, they certainly did not vote to be worse off or easier to mistreat at work. UK workers are already the cheapest and easiest to sack in Europe, a shameful state of affairs for an advanced economy. 

“But there are too many on the Conservative benches itching to use Brexit to destroy a whole raft of protections and who will waste no time in attacking vital laws like the working time directive. A measure that is not ‘red tape’, but essential protection for workers and the public alike. Our roads are safer, for example, because under EU law lorry drivers must rest. 

“That is why we urge the sensible voices from across the House of Commons to unite to build in protections for the people from the over-bearing power that this bill gives the government of the day. That includes establishing a threshold to protect employment, safety and living standards from being swept away behind closed doors with a flick of the government’s pen.” 

Unite argues that the threshold is a vital corrective to the ‘Henry VIII’ powers that allow government to sweep away laws without parliamentary consent.

Meanwhile TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

This is a Downing Street power grab.

“The PM promised to protect all workers’ rights after Brexit. But there is nothing in this Bill to stop politicians shredding or watering down our rights in the future.

“Nobody voted for Brexit to make life harder for working people. That’s why any deal with the EU must ensure that workers’ rights in Britain don’t fall behind the rest of Europe.”

On proposals for the UK to be no longer subject to European Court of Justice rulings from the day the UK leaves the EU, O’Grady said:

“An early commitment to walk away from the ECJ will tie our hands in Brexit negotiations.

“The government should leave all options on the table, instead of creating yet more inflexible red lines.”

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