Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson today made his first major speech highlighting how the EU has helped to secure workers’ rights including the rights of over 326,000 part time workers in the North East.
Speaking on the rights of part time workers in the UK, Tom Watson said:
“The right for part time workers to be treated in the same way as full time workers was introduced in 2000 thanks to trade union campaigning in Europe. A total of 8.5 million people in the UK benefit from this directly.
“There is no guarantee that those protections will remain in place if the ‘Leave’ campaigners win the argument and the UK votes to leave the EU.
“You may think no government would risk being punished at the ballot box by removing rights enjoyed by so many workers. But this Tory Government recently floated the idea of asking workers to give up employment rights in exchange for receiving a small number of shares in the company they work for.
“So my message to anyone who thinks they wouldn’t shelve these protections is a blunt one: Don’t be so naïve. The Tories are itching to get rid of them.”
Commenting on European legislation, the Social Chapter, Tom Watson said:
“For me the answer to the question: ‘should the UK remain in the EU?’ is an emphatic, unqualified and unequivocal ‘yes’.
“It is Europe that has protected, enhanced and extended the rights of working people in the UK for a generation or more.
“It is Europe that guaranteed a minimum amount of paid holiday; enshrined paternity leave and maternity leave in law; gave part-time agency workers the same rights as their full-time colleagues; ensured that no one working seven days straight should have to work an eighth day without at least 24 hours rest.
“It is Europe that passed legislation, which gives workers a 20-minute break for every six hours of work.
“Many of those measures were introduced as part of the Social Chapter, a piece of legislation that is detested and derided by the Tory right with a venomous disdain that betrays the real agenda they’d pursue if Britain voted to leave.
“It was a Conservative government that left British workers vulnerable in 1992, when they opted out of the social chapter adopted by our EU colleagues and partners.
“That’s why I’m proud the last Labour Government introduced the Social Chapter in full in 1997 - in the teeth of fierce opposition from the Tories.
“They call it restrictive Red Tape; I say it created the minimum conditions every worker in a modern, civilised society should expect.”
Responding to the speech, Jude Kirton-Darling, Labour MEP for the North East said:
“The European Union has brought ordinary people a range of rights, including paid holidays, protections for agency and part time workers, cheaper calls while on holiday and limits on credit card charges. I’m proud that the Labour Government in 1997 took the UK into the social chapter which brought big benefits to working people.
“For every £1 we pay in EU membership we get £10 back through growth, jobs and trade. In the North East we get our original £1 back too as we receive a great deal of European funding for projects across the region. Our membership is vital to the North East.
“Those who want us to leave the EU want to turn back the clock on the rights we’ve gained as members and make life tougher for working people. Their agenda is one of a low wage, low regulation sweatshop economy for Britain. That is not a picture of our future that I want to sign up to.”