Henry VIII’s Cruellest Cut

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2018 Local Government Service Group Conference
15 February 2018

We voted to leave the EU. Control over our laws, it was argued, would be returned to our Houses of Parliament and all our laws would be debated by our democratically elected Members of Parliament, with our democratic rights strengthened, not weakened.

The proposed Great Repeal Bill, which will repeal The European Communities Act 1972, is intended to put EU law into UK statute. The reality is that the act when carried will not actually repeal at all it will convert EU law into UK law at the point of formal separation from the EU.

The Great Repeal Bill has been widely condemned because the Tory government has seen fit to take this opportunity to include a procedure which fundamentally undermines the right of parliament to scrutinise legislation, using a provision which dates back to Henry Vlll which he introduced in the Statute of Proclamations in 1539 known as the Henry Vlll Clause. This was a king who believed in the divine right of kings and not the right of parliament to scrutinise his actions or laws.

The Henry Vlll Clause allows the government to appeal or amend an Act of Parliament by means of a secondary act with limited or no further parliamentary scrutiny. This has the potential to drastically undermine women’s rights, and the gains we have made over decades and generations many of them originating from European legislation. In particular the following:

1)Equal treatment;

2)Equal pay;

3)Equal pension rights;

4)Maternity rights;

5)Carer’s rights;

6)Women’s health and safety at work;

7)Sexual harassment at work;

8)Part time and agency workers’ rights.

Conference notes that all these issues have been the subject of intense and lengthy negotiations within the local government service group.

Many bitter battles have been fought with local government employers over equal pay in particular, including UNISON’s recent spectacular victory in Glasgow city council.

Enhancements to the basic entitlements have been successfully negotiated in many of these areas, but now local government employers are seeking to undermine existing agreements in their attempts to cut costs in the face of government austerity measures.

European law underpins these rights. The UK’s equal pay provisions were dramatically increased by the introduction of equal value and women’s pension rights through equal treatment, both under European law – and negotiated under the Single Status scheme to ensure equality proofed pay for local government workers.

Likewise the enhancement to maternity and parental rights and the recognition of work life balance all came from Europe, and anti-discrimination law has been hugely impacted by European law.

EU law has been fundamental to our rights at work but also to our ability to organise and campaign as trade unionists – rights which are under threat from our employers, under pressure from the UK government.

Conference calls upon the service group executive to:

a)Work with the NEC, Labour Link and all other appropriate bodies to defend the rights of workers in local government;

b)Raise awareness of the impact of the proposed legislative change amongst the membership, and encourage them to lobby against the proposals;

c)Take the necessary action to support branches in resisting any attempt to reduce existing terms and conditions within local government as a result of any future changes to UK law, and to defend enhanced conditions where they exist.