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In the wake of the Brexit vote last month, many EU migrant workers are worried about their status in the UK. UNISON is currently seeking advice from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) on what steps EU migrant workers can take to protect themselves.

It is illegal to give immigration advice unless you are qualified to do so. UNISON will be making the legal advice available to activists and EU migrant members as soon as it is available. 

For any problems in the meantime, members can access the migration advice helpline, by phoning UNISONdirect (0800 0 857 857) and asking for a call back from a migration lawyer.

No laws have changed yet, which means the status of EU migrants currently remains the same. UNISON is campaigning to protect the rights of migrant workers. 

UNISON has submitted three motions to the upcoming TUC Congress, all seeking to avoid the potentially damaging repercussions of Brexit.

The trade unions share numerous concerns relating to the UK’s exit from the European Union, including the effect on worker and union rights, and the possible worsening of the government’s austerity agenda.

And all are appalled by the rise in racist attacks and abuse since the referendum.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said today: “The unexpected vote to leave has thrown up huge uncertainty for people at work, and especially for those employed across our already under pressure public services.

“The need for stability and reassurance has never been greater, and now we must ensure that neither our public services, nor the communities in which they’re based, lose out as a result of Brexit.

“That means ensuring that the government protects public services from further budget cuts and isn’t tempted to water down those employment rights won for working people thanks to our membership of the EU.”

Mr Prentis added that, “We also have to keep up the pressure for guarantees that workers from across Europe who have come to the UK to work in the NHS, schools, local government, social care and the police service are able to stay here with their families – and are protected from racist abuse by those emboldened by the vote to leave.

“There is much to be done.”

The Congress takes place in Brighton on 11–14 September.

The UNISON motion protecting worker and trade union rights in Brexit will note that the EU has played a key role in protecting workers from exploitation, inequality, hazards and discrimination, and in promoting good employment practices.

Leave campaigners who promised that these rights would be respected “must be held to account”. The motion also calls for:

  • the recognition of trade unions as key stakeholders in the Brexit negotiations;
  • a campaign to ensure that the UK government does not repeal any current rights guaranteed by the EU, or water down or dismantle TU and worker rights;
  • the rights of existing EU workers to remain in the UK to be protected, whilst ensuring the movement of workers in the EU is a key reciprocal right in any agreement that allows UK access to the single market.

The motion on austerity and public services calls on the TUC Congress to demand an immediate moratorium on public service cuts, and to lobby for trade agreements that protect workers, public services, equalities, the environment and health and safety.

Challenging the politics of hate notes the rise in “visible, expressed racism” since the EU referendum, with racist attacks across the UK on black communities, refugees and those perceived to be of migrant backgrounds.

“Congress fears that Brexit will be used as an excuse for yet more attacks on migrant workers, as well as the removal of workplace rights regarded as ‘red-tape’,” the motion states.

“This will exacerbate the UK’s economic problems, leave public services reeling, divide our communities and lead to a race to the bottom at work.”

The motion calls on the TUC to work with unions and campaign groups to renew their opposition to racism in and outside the workplace.

Following months of debate and campaigning, the Trade Union Bill gained Royal Assent this week (04 May 2016). The final Act is a watered down version of the original punitive proposals made by the Tories, but it still presents a major challenge to the Labour Movement, particularly through the imposition of support and turnout thresholds on strike ballots; the introduction of reserve powers for Ministers to place a cap on facility time in the public sector; and the change to an opt-in process for unions' political funds, which presents a major risk to the funding of political opposition to the Tory Party.

Some gains were made in the Lords, with the government backing down on its planned - and entirely unjustified - prohibition of check-off in the public sector, although even here the law now allows employers to challenge the agreement, putting this time-honoured system on more fragile ground. While evidence shared in the Lords suggests most public sector employers want to continue with check-off, there were worrying indications that some authorities might use their powers to scrap the process for purely ideological reasons.

Taken from Institute of Employment Rights News Brief.

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