It was a pleasure to speak at King’s College London this morning on the role of trade unions in the EU debate.
It’s vital that unions are at the heart of the conversation about Europe’s future. And as a union that has traditionally been sceptical about the EU, UNISON has a critical role to play in explaining our thinking, and what we’re campaigning for.
Our position on Europe has been led from the outset by our members and their priorities. It was UNISON members who told us that we should campaign to remain in the EU – despite their misgivings with it – and it was UNISON members who have defined the priorities of that campaign.
Today that campaign – UNISON RemaIN Europe – officially launches.
We won’t be telling UNISON members how to vote, because that’s not how we operate. But we will be encouraging members to use their vote, and letting them know why we’re recommending a vote to remain. There are three key reasons for making that argument:
Rights at work – the regulations we rely upon to protect people at work are enshrined in EU law and upheld by the European Court of Justice. Leaving would mean that hard-won rights like paid holiday, fair working hours, equal rights for part-time workers, and maternity and paternity leave would no longer be guaranteed.
Protecting your standard of living – leaving the EU would put working people’s standard of living at risk by creating economic uncertainty. This would risk investment in jobs and damage consumer confidence. It would also make the pound vulnerable, which would push up prices and interest rates.
Protecting public services – we see every day how a weaker economy has meant cuts in public spending affecting everything including the NHS, local services, policing and education. We can’t afford to risk any more cutbacks at a time when our public services are under increasing pressure.
The EU isn’t perfect – even the most committed Europhile wouldn’t argue that – but on balance, and having taken the arguments on both sides into account, we believe that a remain vote will be best for UNISON members and the services they provide.
A remain vote would allow us to do what we’ve always done, and what union negotiators do every day – build on imperfection, fight for a better deal and win change through winning the arguments.
Because you rarely win anything by walking away.
Today we’re launching our campaign website unison.org.uk/EUvote. On it you’ll find materials and information for members and branches: leaflets and stickers to order; General Secretary blogs; videos; and a sign-up to follow the campaign as it develops up to polling day on 23 June.