Yesterday in Parliament, Labour MP Melanie Onn took a significant step to try and protect all our rights at work. Her Bill – the Workers’ Rights (Maintenance of EU standards) Bill – seeks to enshrine in law protections fought for over decades that we could lose post-Brexit.
Melanie deserves real credit for her dedication and tenacity on this issue. Since the Brexit vote last year, our rights have been increasingly on the line. That attack on our rights was a key reason why UNISON supported a Remain vote last year.
Since the referendum, the government has failed to make the necessary clear and unequivocal commitments to defend our basic and fundamental rights at work.
We’ve heard about immigration, trade and the City of London – yet we’ve heard precious little about the impact Brexit could have on the rights we’ve come to rely on.
Thanks to Melanie and other MPs who have supported here, these rights are on the Parliamentary agenda. And that’s incredibly important.
The lives of millions of people and the kind of economy we have in this country will be determined by what rights we retain – and that matters however you voted on referendum day.
Many who voted to leave assumed – quite reasonably – that being outside the EU would give the UK greater certainty over its laws and give them more control over the future direction of their lives.
Instead, they could find the opposite – a race to the bottom, where workers in the UK face worse working conditions, job insecurity and a deregulated labour market where zero-hours contracts become the norm.
In the long run, employees in the UK could find themselves with less control over their working lives than their EU counterparts. And British rights could go from being enshrined in EU law, to being abolished at the whim of a Secretary of State through “statutory instruments”.
That would see working people losing control, rather than taking it.
That’s why all of us within the movement must commit ourselves fully to the fight for our rights that lies ahead. On equal pay and TUPE. On part-time rights, agency rights and working hours. On race, gender, LGBT and disabled rights. And on laws that protect your right to a decent family life or health and safety regulations that stop injury and deaths in the workplace.
Together we have so much to fight for. So much to defend. And so very much to lose.