The leaders of Britain’s biggest trade unions have united in a bid to encourage their workers to vote to stay in Europe, warning a Brexit would threaten their hard-earned rights.
In a letter penned to the Guardian, 10 trade union leaders said they do not trust the Government not to interfere with rights around parenting, holiday and equality in the event of a ‘leave’ vote, saying the Conservatives would “negotiate away” these rights.
The letter acknowledged that there were issues with the UK’s membership of the EU, and admitted there was a need to move it ‘away from a path of austerity’.
But the group, which includes Unison, Unite, GMB and Usdaw, said: “Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s the British trade union movement worked in solidarity with our European partners and fought hard to secure valuable working rights legislation at EU level.
“To this day these rights – including maternity and paternity rights, equal treatment for full time, part-time and agency workers and the right to paid leave – continue to underpin and protect working rights for British people.
“If Britain leaves the EU we are in no doubt these protections would be under great threat. Despite words to the contrary from figures like Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove, the Tories would negotiate our exit and, we believe, would negotiate away our rights.
“We simply do not trust this government if they are presented with an unrestricted, unchecked opportunity to attack our current working rights.”
Priti Patel, a Conservative employment minister campaigning for Brexit, had previously said she would like to “halve the burden of the EU social and employment legislation”, but last week said the belief Brexit would impact on employment rights was “nonsense”.
Protections guaranteed by the EU include a minimum of one day off per week, four weeks paid holiday, and 11 hours of consecutive rest in any 24-hour period.
However, in many cases, holiday and other employment rights are already more generous.
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