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25 April 2016

Trade unions: myths of EU 'Remain' campaign

Dave Semple, PCS union rep

When Jeremy Corbyn, flanked by Blairite minders like Alan Johnson, made his first serious intervention in the EU referendum debate, he declared that if we voted Leave, the Tories would dump equal pay, annual leave and maternity rights.

This follows months of the Trades Union Congress cranking up the left wing of Project Fear. General Secretary Frances O'Grady famously and disgracefully declared in February: "Most of the rights we depend on derive from Europe".

Socialists must be absolutely clear that, in or out of Europe, our rights are under threat. We can choose, like O'Grady, to hide behind the skirts of the European Union or we can choose to organise and campaign for our rights.

The European Union has not prevented Tesco attacking the pensions of staff, or the premiums they enjoyed for working anti-social hours.

It has not prevented the government's quest to break up national pay bargaining for council workers and teachers, or their attack on public sector pensions, or the strike ban they imposed against Prison Officers.

All of these have been imposed without a peep from the EU, the institutions of which are fully behind the Tory plan to make City spivs ever richer and workers ever poorer.

Maternity rights were not a gift from the European Commission; they were first wrested out of the hands of employers by strong unions.

This is why strongly unionised jobs often come with more than the statutory minimum entitlement to maternity leave.

Managers routinely ignore these rights - and un-unionised workers have no redress, for fear of angering the boss.

Union leaders associated with the establishment-led Remain campaign are allergic to the kind of industrial struggles that can secure rights like these.

A huge section of the working class will not be convinced by this scaremongering.

They will be repulsed by Labour activists standing beside Tories on high streets, handing out leaflets promising that the EU will secure jobs - the same Tories who have slashed more than a million public sector jobs.

Workers will be instinctively repelled by a blood-spattered establishment promising jam tomorrow while hospitals go bankrupt, libraries close and school places evaporate.

They are right to be repelled - and someone has to speak for them. This is why the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is organising a working class, socialist Leave campaign.

We must fight on two fronts - to push these union leaders into fighting austerity and to build a socialist Leave campaign that rejects EU-mandated austerity, privatisation and deregulation.

How the bosses' EU acts against workers and trade unions

Kevin Parlsow

The 'Remain' campaign, including unfortunately most trade union and Labour Party leaders, says that workers' rights would be more adversely affected by a vote to 'Leave' the European Union (EU). This is not true! Workers and trade unions are already under attack from the EU. Although 'accepting' the right to organise in trade unions of a workers' choice (part of International Labour Organisation - ILO - principles, not an EU right), when this comes into conflict with the bosses' objectives of the single market and the rights of businesses to exploit their workers, the capitalist EU invariably comes down on the side of the bosses.

Here is how the bosses' EU acts against workers and trade unions and facilitates the 'race to the bottom':

The truth is, in or out of the EU, 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 changing society in a socialist direction.

This second of the above articles was posted on the Socialist Party website on 25 April 2016 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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