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TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady will today appeal for the help of unions across Europe in persuading their governments to resist David Cameron’s attempt to ‘repatriate’ workers’ rights.
The new head of the TUC will tell an event in Spain which marks 40 years of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) that if the Prime Minister gets his way over Europe, British workers – and possibly workers across the continent – will lose out.
O’Grady is expected to say: “As well bringing the prospect of an unprecedented triple-dip recession even closer, the UK government is making the most vulnerable pay for a crisis they didn’t cause, and is set on a wholesale scrapping of workers’ rights.
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“The government has already made it easier for employers to sack people they don’t like and more difficult for workers to get justice before the courts. Now it is trying to abolish wage protection for farm workers, and stop people injured at work getting their rightful compensation.
“But there’s one set of workers’ rights David Cameron can’t touch. Those are the rights provided for by social Europe – paid holidays, health and safety, equal treatment for part-time workers and women, protection when a business is sold off, and a voice at work.
“The Prime Minister wants to ‘repatriate’ those rights, and not because he thinks he can improve them! David Cameron wants to make it easier for bad employers to undercut good ones, drive down wages, and make people who already work some of the longest hours in Europe work even longer. To do that, he needs agreement from the rest of Europe.
“What David Cameron is trying to do isn’t just opt out of Social Europe, he wants to undercut it. When he talks about Europe becoming more competitive and about going back to the days of the Common Market, what he means is that he wants to end Social Europe altogether.”
O’Grady will also speak out against the politics of austerity. She will say: “The increasingly tight fiscal straightjacket is strangling the European economy. It has unleashed a crisis of unemployment unseen in our continent since the 1930s, nowhere more so than in Spain. It is destroying growth and doing little to ease debt problems – indeed in Britain, debt is rising, not falling. And it is weakening the public services, welfare provisions and workers’ rights that have long been at the heart of the European project.
“The Troika and the EU establishment need to understand that putting people out of work, making workers poorer, increasing insecurity is not the way to get our economy back on track.
“We need a credible, compelling recovery plan that gives European workers a sense of hope about their future. We need a plan that gets our continent back to work, gets tax revenues flowing, and living standards and wages rising again.”