Do you trust the Tories on employment rights after Brexit

Posted October 20, 2017

Boris Johnson and Daniel Hannan have demonstrated precisely why we can’t trust the Tories with our rights in the workplace.

Many of us in the Labour and Trade Union movement have doubted the Conservative promise to protect employment rights once Britain has left the European Union.

On the face of it the Conservative promise is unequivocal - the rights of people at work will be moved into UK law without change. Whatever they say, however, there is a big difference between employment rights inside the EU and the same rights transferred to UK law. Within the EU employment rights are guaranteed by treaty. Changing an EU treaty is hard to achieve - requiring agreement from all member states. Changing UK law requires a majority in the House of Commons - or just an Order in Council (a Minister’s decree) for some laws under the provisions of the withdrawal bill.

So outside the European Union rights are only guaranteed so long as the Government sticks to its word.

It should now be crystal clear that whatever the lame duck Prime Minister might say, other Conservatives don’t intend that the pledge on employment rights will last very long. At the launch of the new Think Tank led by Brexit extremist MEP, Daniel Hannan, ‘The Institute of Free Trade’ (IFT), both Boris Johnson and Hannan himself set out their vision of a Singapore-style, low-tax, low-regulation ‘offshore’ economy. In such an economy the rights of employees are rarely the number one priority.

The fact is on rolling back rights at work the Conservatives have form. One of their first acts after they took power in 2010, with the support of current Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable, was to remove protection from staff in post for less than two years. During their campaign to take the UK out of the EU, employment rights legislation was frequently listed among the ‘red tape’ constraining business that could be when outside the bloc.

It’s also worth remembering that the Conservatives fought tooth and nail to keep the UK opted out of the aspects of EU law that protect employment rights. Those rights were never forced on the UK by ‘Brussels’, but were eventually adopted by the UK as one of Labour’s manifesto promises at the 1997 General Election. TUC General Secretary, Francis O’Grady, recently pointed out that the immediate risk to employment rights is to those regulations that protect part-time and agency workers which are gradually chipped away by the Tories under the guise of cutting ‘red tape’.

A year of reassurances from Tory ministers that our rights in the workplace would be protected and enhanced. Theresa May said in her Lancaster House speech, that she would like to build “a fairer Britain is a country that protects and enhances the rights people have at work” but whether she means it or not we all know her days as Prime Minister are numbered. Her Party is in thrall of Brexit extremists like Mr Hannan, Jacob Reece-Mogg and Ian Duncan-Smith who are devoted to the ideology of the unfettered free-market. They have turned a very narrow referendum vote into an excuse for a ‘hard Brexit’ that they told voters wasn’t on the ballot and which this year’s general election rejected.

How long before the promises of guaranteed rights at work go the same way as Mr Hannan’s infamous claim that “nobody is talking about leaving the Single Market”?