The EU does not guarantee workers rights

I must take umbrage with various politicians on the Remain side arguing that leaving the EU threatens workers rights.

We currently see trade union strikes in France & Belgium over EU deregulation where train drivers are due to lose rest periods and undermine working conditions.

Last night on BBC The View we saw Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson cite a loss of workers rights if we left the EU as a reason to vote Remain, yet her colleague Mary Lou McDonald has said that the Lisbon Treaty lowers wages and provides the “Commission and Court with a….mandate to undermine workers pay and conditions”. Similarly Sinn Fein MEP Liadh Ni Riada has said that the European Fund for Strategic Investments is a white elephant benefiting private investment at the cost of public services and that “the economic and fiscal policies of the EU have had catasrophic effects…social rights are being dismantled..and the people of the member states are being subordinated to poverty”

But I digress and would point out that the UK has been at the forefront of conferring workers rights long before we joined the EU – Holiday Pay Act 1938, Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Equal Pay Act 1970, Race Relations Act 1965.

EU law stipulates 4 weeks holidays whilst UK law stipulates 5.6 weeks. The UK provides for 56 weeks maternity leave with pay whilst the EU only requires 14 weeks with no minimum pay. There is no EU minimum wage – the UK has one of the highest in the world.

Hilariously, contrary to Sinn Fein`s recent arguments they have a 2015 press release on their website where Lynn Boylan MEP states

The draft maternity legislation was adopted by the parliament in 2010 with the aim of strengthening women’s rights by ensuring that 20 weeks of fully paid maternity leave becomes standard practice across the European Union.

The move to withdraw this directive is nothing short of scandalous and adds to the backlash against women’s rights, especially here in Ireland where women have been repeatedly victimised by Labour cuts to child benefit, back to school clothing allowances and now lone parent payments…..

The proposed directive would have also included provisions on paternity leave, so a blow was also struck to parental leave rights.

The Commission has yet again has chosen to capitulate to the business lobby over strengthening equality.”

International Labour law is governed by ILO an agency of the UN which does not require political and economic union to be a member.

As Boris Johnson replied to SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon on this topic “We do not need the European Union to guarantee our humanity”


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  • mickfealty

    This is a critique of SF’s flip flopping, and not quite what it says on the tin.

    Are you seriously saying that the European Social Charter is not going to be the first thing up against the wall post Brexit.

    Brexiteers will have to pay small businesses off somehow and binning this formal check on workers rights is a cost efficient and permissive way of doing it.

    So it is not credible to suggest that Brexit will not presage the binning of protections. However SF play fast and loose with the facts.

  • Nissemus
  • Declan Doyle

    If SF even loosely show any hesitancy in their support for remain, the southern media and parties would have their hide and do irreparable damage. Whatever their true feelings on Europe they need to appear solidly behind remain, no matter what they are privately hoping the outcome might be.

  • Katyusha

    Also, sharing a platform with Michael Gove and Boris Johnson would not be a good look for SF.

    This referendum is the result of an internal Tory spat and should be treated as such. Best for SF to distance themselves on this occasion.

  • Declan Doyle

    I don’t agree. U will not find a Shinner on any stage alongside a tory. Optically they simply would not do it. However, concerning the EU ref SF have taken exactly the correct tack. Nobody can slice them for being pro remain and their euro-critical credentials are intact. They have played this perfectly.

  • Gingray

    Typical Leave nonsense. You guys can’t stop lying, much in the same way remain can’t stop trying to scare us.

    UK maternity leave is not 56 weeks paid.

    But thankfully your own article contradicts your previous statements – it does not look like the EU is forcing anything on the UK, there are minimum standards which guarantee workers rights in all member states.

    While you have cherry picked some where the UK is stronger, there are plenty of other areas where the UK operates at the minimum level.

    Looking at the leading figures in the leave campaign I somehow doubt workers rights are something they will care much for post brexit.

  • notmyopinion

    I think you’re taking issue, not umbrage… but more seriously, I’m not sure your confidence in a post-brexit UK Government’s willingness to protect workers’ rights is well founded.

    The examples you cite of UK protection for human dignity, from 1938-1975, considerably predate the adoption of today’s Neo-liberal dogma by the Tory and Labour parties. Such a pro-99% approach would be inconceivable in today’s Conservative Party, or a Blairite Labour Party.

    It is true that there is a recent tendency in the EU to follow a similar path (from deregulation, through TTIPP, to forcing Greece to bail out European banks), but it is on the whole less rapid, and much less advanced than it is in the UK or the USA. Europe as a whole, and the EU as a body, has not spent the past few years clamping down on unions’ and workers’ ability to withdraw their labour, or making it more difficult to organise – the Conservatives have.

    So while there are damaging policies coming from the EU (which pro-EU people may well oppose), it is still more benign than either main Party in the UK has recently been.

    You are technically right that leaving the EU does not a priori guarantee that worker’s rights will be harmed. But if either the Tories, or a Blairite Labour Party are in power afterwards, then worker’s rights will most certainly suffer!

  • “As Boris Johnson replied to SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon on this topic “We do not need the European Union to guarantee our humanity””

    No, but it’s a useful guarantee for the rest of us.

    As for the reliance on Sinn Féin statements to debunk the remain campaign…

    Are you serious? How is that “various politicians on the Remain side”?

  • Declan Doyle

    Ah here now go away with your pesky facts and truth. Don’t you know it’s all about fiction?

  • Katyusha

    I agree with you totally.

    By the way, I only meant metaphorically sharing a platform. I think hell would freeze over before they would appear alongside the Tories, but even being on the same side of the argument would be damaging.

  • Declan Doyle

    Nationlists in the six counties and southern voters are fully aware that SF walk a tightrope in terms of their ‘long game’. SF backroom boys have figured it all out and a cunning plan is most definately hiding in the hay.

  • Jollyraj

    Last night on BBC The View we saw Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson cite a loss of workers rights if we left the EU as a reason to vote Remain, yet her colleague Mary Lou McDonald has said that the Lisbon Treaty lowers wages and provides the “Commission and Court with a….mandate to undermine workers pay and conditions”.

    Presumably Gerry said both these things, to different audiences, and they both believe Gerry.

  • Jollyraj

    Whom do you believe? Martina or Mary Lou?

  • mickfealty

    Point is that K is focusing on one party’s campaign to make an assertion about the EU that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. SF poor campaign is beside the point he’s trying to make. Sorry K, but as Vic Reeves almost used to say, I couldn’t let it lie.

  • Reader

    Declan Plan: SF backroom boys have figured it all out and a cunning plan is most definately hiding in the hay.
    The idea was for the backroom boys to whisper the plan into the ears of the chief just in the nick of time. Only they couldn’t get him off that damned trampoline.
    Plan B is taking shape and will be communicated to the new leadership in a few years.

  • My article is pointing out the contradictory statements from Remain – Cameron ie – says food prices will go up (due to no CAP subsidies), Paddy Ashdown says they will go down (due to cheap imports), other say wages will go down whilst head of Remain Lord Rose tels the HoC wages would go up. My point being the remain camp in the debates inc Nicola Sturgeon etc have all cited maternity pay.

  • Teddybear

    It makes me sick to hear Sinn Fein talk about workers rights. The party that supported the mass murder of workmen at Teebane and Kingsmill to mention only two of many evil deeds of many.

    And the murder of the young census worker in Derry in the 90s.

    Sorry folks but I’m not going to develop Peace Process amnesia or hold hands with the letsgetalongerists. Sinn Fein are an evil dispicable party of psychopaths who celebrated murder and still refuse to condemn it.

    No one should engage with them or accord them the dignity of treating them like a normal political party. Shame on those who do

  • Gingray

    Can you accept that most people believe that nobody can predict what will happen if the UK leaves the EU?

    Of more interest surely is the barefaced lies the leave campaign have been putting out and the contrary statements.

    As a leave supporter are you willing to stand over and explain the claims of £350m a week to Europe?

  • chrisjones2

    The point is that in future in the UK we will decide on what the rights should be – not the EU

  • chrisjones2

    ,,,but they are happy to sip tea with the Queen. How principled

  • chrisjones2

    …perhaps better to brief the dog? Unless of course it is a British Agent alongside all the others

  • Declan Doyle

    And so they should respect a foreign head of state.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Both camps are assiduously engaged in telling ” barefaced lies [and] contrary statements”, so no advantage to either end of the see-saw on such claims. The abuse of public credulity and fears is almost classic “Edward Bernays”, but then what else could it be in todays political climate?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Absolutely agree, UKIP and the Brexit loving Tories come across as severely misanthropic and self-righteous and have the nerve to criticise the far right rising in other countries … That is appealing to the marginalised. The left on the leave side want to work a new nation, but don’t have a clue about how to engineer it.

    Remain politicans have their flaws, but there does seem to be some belief in the kindness of strangers about the lot of them, there seems to be a greater willingness not to quit and not dismiss adversities should they lose the campaign.

    The Leave side seems very conservative, sometimes more obsessed by a sudden return to the privilege of empire than the risks of some Brave New World.

    Psychological Politics will end up being a poor substitute for Practical politics.

    Personally, I can’t forgive the likes of Hannan MEP for calling the bulk of the British Science Community Sock Puppets because he disagreed with their political opinion. What’s he done to help British science, or any other nation’s science for that matter.

    Maybe the laws of physics are too much regulation for him.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Don’t generalise, Cameron’s assumption that domestic and continental products may go up, but Ashdown’s that the retail market may exploit the price change with cheaper imports is fully compatible.

    Plenty of contradictions come from the Leave side, on one side they say to one group there’s going to be a cut to migration, the other side there are people saying they’ll relax conditions on the Commonwealth citizens coming in, if more EU ones get sent away, and then here we are being told such micromanagement is not going to exist, every migrant crossing the border is going to be “controlled” by a denial of access to benefits and public services, like a Polish person based in the Republic who gets in a car crash on his way to Belfast is going to be left to die.

    Pure populist nonsense.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The EU is right wing, but the fact is that it’s because the 28 countries are collectively right wing, no EU and they would simply conspire together but there would be no EU Parliament scrutiny, and every left wing vote across Europe fights against that trend. I feel the right, indeed the far right especially are maybe aided by milking the fear of immigrants their own lobbyists exploit. It wouldn’t surprise me if some UKIP members are bringing in migrants illegally simply in the greedy pursuit for political power. Others milk adversity in Europe for political power, but would rather fund defence charities and use poor people to be cannon fodder on foreign theatres rather than help to educate poor people left by the system to get out of poverty and cut schools to fund archaic relics like Trident.

  • Declan Doyle

    Well hundreds and thousands of people are shaming themselves then by voting for them so like it or not they are part of the new political order and will continue to be so for the foreseeable. Their voters cannot be disenfranchised so you are gonna have to suck it up.

  • Declan Doyle

    Well if you are talking about workers rights and specifically legislation protecting them at EU level, every bremain party including UK labour have made the same arguments

  • Rowdie111

    And yours isn’t ?

  • SF backroom boys have figured it all out and a cunning plan is most definately [sic] hiding in the hay.

    Does it involve a turnip?

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’m not telling the English the borders will be shut like a prison and the Irish community the borders will be open like the air on the Mournes, telling the Indian Community that they’ll be favoured over Poles because they won’t have the EEA rules and free movement to deal with, then the European business community they’ll join the EEA and agree EEA free movement rules.

    It’s easy to tell people what they want to hear, but difficult to make laws that please everybody. It’s like wanting a divorce, demanding everything and a new girlfriend as well.

    Wages and Prices are not just determined by nation state activity but are also determined by Global markets, things outside the UK and EU’s control. The law, barring a few international human rights obligations is entirely decided by national parliaments and governments and their collaboration in bodies like the European Union.

    Remain speak of influence, Leave speak of control … Influence is often a more honest word.

  • Jollyraj

    First point you’ve ever made that i think is reasonable: “hundreds and thousands of people are shaming themselves then by voting for them”. Credit where it’s due.

  • Declan Doyle

    No, it’s most likely a parsnip.

  • Declan Doyle

    That whole democracy thing is such a pain for people like yourself, ah well.

  • Jollyraj

    Actually the ‘whole democracy thing’ works out quite well, from where I’m sitting. The democratic majority in NI wish to remain in the UK. As do I. I ‘d respect the decision if it were the other way round, but that just isn’t the case. Thank goodness for democracy – and thank goodness we didn’t let the fundamentalists of the IRA win against the democratic wishes of the rest of us.

  • Declan Doyle

    So then u respect the democratic decision of all those multitudes who vote for SF. Good for you.