The Socialist 13 March 2019 |
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Neither Tories or EU - only fighting trade unions and a Corbyn-led government can deliver workers' rights
Lindsey oil refinery construction workers striking against EU-backed undermining of nationally agreed trade union conditions, photo Sean Figg (Click to enlarge)
Glenn Kelly, Socialist Party industrial organiser
The government's last ditch attempt to bribe enough Labour MPs to back Theresa May's Brexit deal has seemingly backfired - with only a few Blairites prepared to back her.
Not only have they rejected the £1.6 billion bribe for areas who voted Leave - describing it as "wholly inadequate" - but attempts to woo the unions have also been rejected.
While the government has said it will not reduce the EU workers' rights laws already enshrined in UK law, they have refused to give any guarantee that any future improvements will be implemented.
The first two casualties look set to be the directive on 'work-life balance', which guarantees workers paid parental leave for the first time, and the 'transparent and predictable working conditions directive'. which relates to rights for workers in precarious jobs. Both of these were due to come into force next year.
With UK workers already having some of the worst employment rights in Europe, any further fall behind will make the country's employees "the cheapest to hire and the easiest to fire" (as one union general secretary described it).
Trade Union Congress general secretary Frances O'Grady went further when she said that, as there were no legally binding commitments in the withdrawal agreement, "there was nothing to stop a future right-wing government tearing up the existing legalisation altogether".
The refusal of the government to give any guarantees of existing workers' rights - let alone future ones - will only add to the fears of many workers at the prospect of a Tory Brexit deal.
And the latest blacklisting revelations - how the Metropolitan Police's Special Branch helped the illegal blacklisting of trade unionists - further shows that the government can't be trusted to protect workers and our rights.
The question posed for the Labour Party and the trade unions is how do they win a Brexit in the interest of workers? Unfortunately, while trade union leaders have talked tough, they have done little to seek to mobilise union members to force the government into a retreat and out of office.
Instead of launching a fight to win a general election to get rid of the Tories, and for a workers' Brexit - as Socialist Party members in the unions have been arguing for - the trade union leaders have reduced their role to mere commentators and passive onlookers at the parliamentary chaos.
Unfortunately, the trade union leaders see no role for their members and the working class in general in being able to influence and shape the outcome of the current government crisis.
They have refused to back up Jeremy Corbyn's call for a general election, with the demand for a mass demonstration that has the potential to unite both Leave and Remain voters in the fight against austerity. If then the government still refused to call an election, a mass demonstration could have been used to call for a 24-hour general strike to bring the government down.
With many, particularly manufacturing workers, fearing their employers fleeing the UK, this strategy could give confidence to all that there is an alternative to the shambles taking place in parliament.
The only defence against the bosses' attacks is to build independent, strong and fighting unions with a class-conscious membership, which links this to the idea of ending austerity, changing society and fighting for socialism.