31 March 2017
General Secretary of Unite Len McCluskey has called for a two-thirds threshold to be implemented in parliament before EU rights can be scrapped.
This would mean that proposals to dilute workers’ rights that derive from the EU would need the support of 66% of the House of Commons before they can be passed. The two-thirds threshold is already the standard used by parliament to call a General Election before a five-year parliamentary term has come to a close.
Len McCluskey explained: “Sadly, there are too many on the Conservative benches who see Brexit as their moment to destroy employment rights for unions to simply accept the prime minister’s word that the status quo will endure.
“They will waste no time in destroying vital laws like the working time directive, a measure that is not red tape but essential protection for workers and the public alike. Our roads are safer, for example, because under EU law lorry drivers must rest.
“But this hurdle would also provide an essential corrector to the enormous powers that the government can give itself using measures established 500 years ago by Henry VIII. This threshold would secure a voice for people in parliament during the most challenging time for our nations in generations.
He also called on the government to use the Great Repeal Bill as an opportunity to strengthen rather than weaken employment rights, such as by banning the use of umbrella companies, which use agency staff to undermine workers’ rights, and outlaw the use of exclusivity clauses in contracts that offer fewer than 35 hours of work a week.
The Institute of Employment Rights also calls for the break from the EU to be used as an opportunity to improve on the rights afforded to workers. In our Manifesto for Labour Law – 25 recommendations for reform, the principles of which have been adopted by the Labour Party – we call for the promotion of collective bargaining at sectoral and enterprise levels to shift the focus of labour law from statutory minimums that encourage a race to the bottom, to collectively agreed pay and conditions that would help to reduce inequality.
Len McCluskey commented: “Whichever way people voted in the referendum, they did not vote to be worse off. That includes being easier to mistreat at work. UK workers are already the cheapest and easiest to sack in Europe, a shameful state of affairs for an advanced economy. To this the government must not add that UK workers are the easiest to exploit.”
The Institute of Employment Rights has hosted two conferences this month at which leading legal, academic and campaigning experts from across the UK have debated how we can protect the rights of both migrant and UK workers as the UK leaves the EU. You can now read the full report of our London conference Migration After Brexit: the challenge for labour standards, and see the tweets from our free Brexit and employment rights below.
If you missed these important conferences, there are still opportunities to get involved in the debate. Our experts will return for another Migration after Brexit event in Liverpool on 27 April, and we will soon release an audio recording of our Brexit and employment rights debate.