The TUC and NIC-ICTU (Northern Ireland Committee in the Irish Congress of Trade Union) have issued a joint statement warning about the government’s plans to rip up key workers’ rights, which they say could threaten stability on the island of Ireland.
The statement came ahead of the 25-year anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement on Monday 10th April, as the Retained EU Law Bill makes its way through parliament.
The Bill will automatically start the countdown for thousands of pieces of EU legislation currently transposed into British law – including vital workplace rights such as holiday pay, rest breaks, health and safety rules and protections from discrimination.
These and many other essential protections will disappear from the end of this year – unless ministers table new regulations to retain them.
The TUC and Northern Irish unions warn that if vital rights in Northern Ireland are ripped up, it would be in “direct breach” of the government’s level playing field commitments from the EU-UK trade deal, possibly “provoking a trade war with the EU”.
The unions say this is a “threat to stability on the island of Ireland” – putting at risk the significant achievements since the Good Friday Agreement was signed 25 years ago.
The unions are calling on the British government to ditch the retained EU Law Bill and protect jobs, workers’ rights and peace on the island of Ireland.
TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said:
“The Conservatives are threatening to take a wrecking ball to hard-won workers’ rights with the Retained EU Law Bill. This reckless Bill puts at risk vital workplace protections – like holiday pay, safe working hours and protection from discrimination.
Not only is that bad for workers across Britain – it also threatens stability on the island of Ireland.
If essential rights are torn up in Northern Ireland while stronger rights remain across the border, the British government will be in direct breach of its level playing field commitments. This risks provoking a trade war with the EU – that’s the last thing working people need in the middle of a cost of living crisis.
It’s time to ditch this reckless Bill. The Conservatives do not have a mandate to slash and burn people’s rights at work.”
Owen Reidy, ICTU General Secretary, said:
“The trade union movement in both jurisdictions, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, have used the east-west and north-south opportunities opened since 1998 to deepen our friendships and co-operation with the TUC, Wales TUC and Scottish TUC.
We have liaised regularly on campaigns against austerity and anti-worker legislation, and we remember how the TUC were almost alone in GB in 2016 when they warned about the possible threat Brexit posed to the stability of the Belfast/ Good Friday Agreement.
Sadly, many of those concerns were justified by subsequent events and policy choices made by the Tory government, and the Retained EU Law Bill is a sour cherry on a stale cake. The best legacy we can leave the past 25 years since the Agreement is to defend it, starting with defeating this irrational Bill.”
Joint statement from NIC-ICTU and the TUC on the 25 year anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and the threat to stability:
Trade unions played a critical role in supporting the Good Friday Agreement – and continue to support reaching negotiated peace settlements to conflicts around the world.
The Good Friday Agreement was a historic achievement – it is essential that it is protected and that peace is maintained.
But the British government is risking hard-won achievements through its reckless Retained EU Law Bill, which could take a wrecking ball to vital workers’ rights like holiday pay, rest breaks and equal pay for women and men.
If these essential rights in Northern Ireland are ripped up, in direct breach of the government’s level playing field commitments, it could prompt a trade war with the EU.
This is a threat to stability on the island of Ireland.
British ministers must honour the Good Friday Agreement and the EU-UK deal.
It’s time to ditch the Retained EU Law Bill and protect jobs, workers’ rights and peace on the island of Ireland.