16 January 2017
For all their promises that workers’ rights will be protected after the UK leaves the EU, the Tories have categorically refused to put their money where their mouth is and have now filibustered a private members’ Bill to protect fundamental workers’ rights from the chop.
The Workers’ Rights (Maintenance of EU Standards) Bill was put forth for debate by Labour MP Melanie Onn following its launch on Wednesday, when it received official backing from UNISON.
Tracy Brabin, Melanie Onn & Keir Starmer launch workers’ rights bill
The Bill aims to preserve the basic protections workers currently enjoy in the UK, such as parental leave, the working time directive, the right to rest breaks, and the right to take paid holiday.
But even these fundamental rights were too much to ask of a Conservative government. Tory members talked out the Bill on Friday by spending four hours discussing the preceding Bill up for debate: the Broadcasting (Radio Multiplex Services) Bill, which aims to ensure that small radio stations can be found on digital radios.
Tory MPs made speeches of up to an hour in length listing their favourite radio presenters and waxing lyrical about their own radio devices. David Nuttall, for instance, felt it was necessary to share with the Commons: “I am an avid user of my digital radio. In fact, I carry it with me everywhere – at this very moment, it is in my coat pocket – and I rarely go anywhere without it. My digital radio is a wonderful thing. In fact, it is my second one – the first one broke, having had an unfortunate incident.” The MPs spent so much time talking about the radio that there was none left to discuss workers’ rights.
Melanie Onn said: “By talking out the bill, the Tories have shown their true colours. They say that maternity pay, parental leave, and paid leave are all safe in their hands. But when given the opportunity to put their money where their mouths are, they instead blocked the protection of those rights in UK law, and have let down working people.”
The Institute of Employment Rights has put forth recommendations, which have been adopted by the Labour Party, to not only protect but improve workers’ rights in a post-Brexit UK. We believe that leaving the EU can be seen as an opportunity to reform employment law in a way that better serves the population, including by refocusing on collectively bargained wages and conditions at sectoral and enterprise levels rather than setting statutory minimums; simplifying the law so that all workers receive equal rights from Day One; and providing for worker representation at all levels of the economy including on company boards, and in government.
Another hotly debated topic is how migrant workers will be affected by Brexit. The Institute of Employment Rights will host a specialist conference delving into this issue with an expert panel of academics, lawyers and trade unionists.