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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.

 

This week the Trade Union Bill went back to the House of Commons. We didn’t manage to defeat the entire bill, but we did manage to remove several elements of it that would have irrevocably damaged the trade union movement.

 

The final bill looks drastically different from when it was proposed last year. And to achieve that, we ran a campaign to be proud of.

 

UNISON members across the UK took part. There were marches in major cities, members visited their MPs and wrote to their local councillors, others attended Parliament for a mass lobby, there was a week of action in February, and much more.

 

We emphasised that trade unions have a positive impact on the workplace, and that trade union members are the very people who can solve the country’s economic problems. We said that MPs needed to focus on the real problems the country faces and talk to us about how we can work together for a better future.

 

And many people listened. Senior figures on the left and the right came out in opposition to the bill – from human rights groups Amnesty and Liberty condemning it as an attack on civil liberties, to The Regulatory Policy Committee, the independent body appointed by the government to scrutinise regulatory proposals, calling it ‘not fit for purpose,’ to Conservative MP David Davis comparing part of the bill to Franco’s Spain.

 

The key changes we won:

 

  • union members can continue to pay their subs via payroll if they wish. The government withdrew plans to ban public sector workers from having their union subs deducted from their wages (check-off);
  • plans to give the Certification Officer (who regulates trade unions) unnecessary power over unions and to charge unions to fund it were watered down;
  • plans to restrict union political funds (which fund our work with the Labour Party as well as local campaigns, such as saving local hospitals) were watered down. The changes in funding policy will now only apply to new members and the costs and effort will be much reduced;
  • the government agreed to a review of online methods for strike ballots, which would help increase turnouts;
  • plans to cap union public sector facility time (the time representatives can take away in order to represent members for example) have been watered down. They will now only happen in occasional cases, after at least three years of research and negotiation with ministers.

 

These added to concessions already made to:

 

  • drop extreme measures to restrict protest, pickets and social media campaigns;
  • abandon plans to make everyone on a picket show personal data to the police, employers or anyone who asks for it;
  • the 40% strike ballot threshold will not apply to union members working in ancillary services that support important public services.

 

Though this bill is still a damaging and undemocratic piece of legislation, we should be proud of the campaign we have run.

 

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Of course we’d rather the bill had never existed, and there is much that is still wrong with it. Even with today’s amendments it still places unnecessary burdens on working people and their unions.

 

“But ministers have sensibly listened to many of the arguments put to them. They have rowed back from many of the proposals that would have placed unbearable restrictions on unions’ ability to function in public sector workplaces across the country.”

 

The Bill now goes back to the House of Lords and it is a wait to see if they will insist on any of the points that the government have refused. As soon as we have any more information, we will update you.