As general secretaries who represent a large part of Britain’s trade union movement, we are writing to make our position clear and urge our collective membership, which reaches over 6 million people, to vote for Britain to remain in the European Union on 23 June.
After much debate and deliberation we believe that the social and cultural benefits of remaining in the EU far outweigh any advantages of leaving.
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.
Europe needs to change – its political direction over the past few years has taken governments down a path of austerity and liberalisation – but we believe this direction is not irreversible, and will endeavour to work with our trade union colleagues to help shape a Europe with a renewed social agenda and a Europe that values investment in our public services.
The decision the British people must make on 23 June should not be taken lightly, but we urge our members to vote remain.
Len McCluskey Unite, Dave Prentis Unison, Tim Roache GMB, Manuel Cortes TSSA, John Smith Musicians’ Union, Dave Ward CWU, Matt Wrack FBU, John Hannett USDAW, Gerry Robinson Bectu, Roy Rickhuss Community