Exiting the EU – A Fair Deal For Workers and Public Services

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2017 National Delegate Conference
20 February 2017
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that the triggering of Article 50 in early 2017 is a decision that affects working people, their families and communities in the UK, in the European Union and broader Europe. The Exiting the EU negotiations require that the government both seeks to leave the EU but also negotiates a new relationship and trade deal with the EU. This is an historic European negotiation that must answer both the challenges of today and tomorrow and fundamentally address devolved UK constitutional and legal issues that also arise.

Conference believes that these negotiations must be transparent, open to trade union consultation and involve parliamentary scrutiny and accountability. Workers need a fair deal from these negotiations with provisions for investment in quality jobs; protection of livings standards and employment rights; funding for quality public services, regional economies and infrastructure projects; an end to austerity pay levels; a fairer and more equal society and real future opportunities for young people.

Conferences further notes the governments’ introduction of the Great Repeal Bill 2017. The Conservative government has proposed this will be an opportunity to scrutinise, amend, repeal or improve any aspect of EU law in the future. It is imperative that workers’ rights, derived from European Union legislation, are safeguarded and maintained during both EU negotiations and in the future, after the exit date of the UK from the EU. No changes should be made to relevant workers rights legislation except through primary legislation open to full parliamentary scrutiny and trade union consultation.

Conference also believes that an EU deal will only be fair to workers if it does not progressively undermine workers’ rights over time. Therefore any future trade deal between the UK and EU must include a commitment and a mechanism whereby the UK cannot fall behind the EU on improvements to employment rights. To ensure that UK workers rights continue to be no less favourable than EU Worker Rights in the future, UK courts and tribunals must have regard to positive developments in the EU’s social and employment legislative framework.

Regaining control over the UK economy includes rethinking the use of state aid rules to fund public services and new national infrastructure projects. There is a new opportunity in public procurement to mandate the use of ‘quality over price’ in awarding private contracts to encourage corporate responsibility, encourage in-house provision, add social value in public services and prevent the race to the bottom.

Conference believes that whilst we have the opportunity to refinance and rebuild our NHS and care services the government has chosen not to. Instead between now and 2022 an estimated £70 billion in a budget ‘tax give away’ has been given to the very richest and to big business. This is not a fair deal for the public or public services.

Conference further believes that the government must place a fair deal for public services at the core of any new deal with the EU and wider global trade deals. Public services need to be fairly funded, protected and excluded from any new global trade deals and unfair private investment courts. Public services must also be removed from trade deals which encourage a global ‘race to the bottom’ through de-regulation, little enforcement protections of core ILO conventions and increased privatisation where private operators are allowed to put ‘global ‘profits and protection of investments before public interest, local economies and decent pay for workers.

Conference believes that in the interests of UK workers, public services and the economy the government needs to pursue a new trade deal agreement with the EU which provides the best economic opportunities for the UK to protect living standards and jobs.

Conference notes the free movement of goods, services, capital and workers remains a corner stone of the EU’s Single Market. There can be no access to the Single Market if the right of EU – workers to seek employment in the UK and vice- versa is no longer guaranteed and is restricted by various controls. A core principle of EU free movement of labour should be that there is equal pay for equal work in the same work place regardless of nationality and it allows for the expansion of collective bargaining.

Conference however reiterates its opposition to all legislation from Europe which allows the exploitation of foreign workers or ‘posted workers’ and European Court of Justice decisions like Viking, Laval, Ruffert and Luxembourg which put competition and the profit of business before workers rights and which have also been used to attack trade union collective bargaining, the right to strike and workers’ pay and conditions in public procurement.

Conference also believes instead that there must be better regulation of the UK jobs market to ensure every worker has a secure job with secure pay, where workers are treated with equal rights and given decent pay, terms and conditions. Collective bargaining agreements need to be in place in key sectors to stop undercutting, so that workers cannot be undercut by the unscrupulous use of agency workers, zero hour contracts and bogus self-employment.

Conference also agrees that Exiting of the EU must not allow racists and xenophobes to use borders to divide workers. The ‘right to remain’ for EU workers and freedom of movement must be defended against nationalists and corporate interests who use these issues to play workers against each other. Workers united in solidarity together are stronger in defending and promoting our interests across Europe.

Conference opposes all racists and xenophobe attacks. We stand in solidarity with those facing such hatred and violence in the work place and in our communities. The UK government should guarantee the right of EU citizens to remain in the UK and in particular recognise the valuable contribution that migrant workers make in vital public services such as health and social care. The right of UK workers to remain in the EU should also be part of the fair trade deal between the UK and the EU.

Conference believes in a fair deal with the European Union in which peace and cooperation, sustainable growth in all countries, and human and social rights must be preserved. At this moment where European cooperation and integration are threatened, conference is committed to continue to work together with our European sister trade unions, for quality public services, to fight social dumping and pursue a Social Europe.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to campaign for a fair deal for workers and public services and:

1)Continue to inform and engage UNISON members and the general public on how Exiting the EU negotiations may impact on the four key priority areas set out in the UNISON Exiting the EU campaign:

a)Employment, health and safety standards and trade union rights;

b)Public services and professional standards;

c)Trade deals/standards, environmental regulations and public procurement;

d)Freedom of movement and right to remain. Fighting racism, discrimination and promoting equalities and human rights;

2)Work with the TUC, ICTU (and their seven point plan), STUC,WTUC, Labour Party, MPs, MEPs, EPSU, ETUC and PSI and other alliances – who specifically campaign on public services, employment rights, human rights, equality rights, migration rights, environmental and consumer standards, health and safety and trade deals – to ensure the government adopts a transparent, informative, consultative and inclusive approach to all aspects of Exiting the EU negotiations and the Great Repeal Bill 2017 legislative process including addressing all devolved issues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland;

3)To campaign with MPs and MEPs for an open, transparent and democratic process over the content and negotiations in the European Union as well as within the UK parliamentary process;

4)To campaign for an Impact Assessment of the final new EU deal with particular attention on how changes will impact on UK:

a)Economy and Regional growth;

b)Public services and procurement;

c)Employment rights;

d)Income equality and gender pay;

e)Jobs, Skills, Pay, terms and conditions;

f)Health and safety;

g)Equality, Citizen and Human rights;

h)Environmental standards and Consumer protections;

i)Land border and the movement of people and goods between UK and the Republic of Ireland.

5)To continue to campaign to keep public services outside the scope of existing and new EU trade agreements and oppose legislation which seek to liberalise and deregulate public services or downgrade existing lLO, social, consumer and environmental standards;

6)To oppose any new EU agreement or trade deals which undermine the democratic UK right to keep public services public or use special investor protection through ISDS (Investor state dispute settlement) or the ICS (Investor Court System) or ‘lock in clauses’ which would prevent the right to return public services to public ownership in the future without huge financial penalties for private profit compensation;

7)To campaign for a new trade deal with the EU that provides the best economic opportunities for the UK to protect living standards, public services and jobs, now and for future generations, based on full access to the Single Market or as close to that trade model which would benefit the UK economy the best;

8)To campaign for better use of state aid and procurement rules to fund quality public services and intervene in strategic industries, infrastructure and utilities under public procurement regulations and reject co-operation on domestic regulation that resembles the ‘better regulation’ approach that the EU has adopted and ECJ rulings which puts market competition and business interests before workers rights;

9)To campaign for the Right to Remain for EU workers and vice- versa for UK workers and citizens in other EU countries and continue to provide support and information to UNISON’s estimated 70,000 EU members;

10)To continue to promote equality and challenge all forms of discrimination, including racism and hate crime, supporting migrant workers and the right for a humane immigration system, the EU free movement of labour and promoting UNISON’s campaign to take action against undercutting of pay and conditions by closing down cheap labour loopholes which exploit low paid workers and thereby strengthening workplace protections;

11)To campaign for a UK legislative mechanism in the new EU deal that ensures that the UK’s equalities and human rights, employment and labour laws, public procurement social provisions, consumer protection and environmental laws are not weakened or downgraded in the Exiting of the EU and that they continue to be favourably updated and interpreted so that UK workers have the same rights and protections as EU workers.