Trade unions and the UK’s EU referendum

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On 21 April, the enlarged presidency of the Workers’ Group and British trade unions met in London to discuss the UK referendum. The broad majority of trade unions in the UK were in favour of remaining in the EU because, as mentioned by several speakers, Europe should represent an opportunity for all, in terms of rights, employment and economic prosperity.

In this respect, participants pointed out the excellent timing of a study carried out by the Labour Research Department at the request of the Workers' Group, which was published at a moment when the UK government via its trade union bill was attempting the biggest crackdown on trade union rights for 30 years. This study on "The crisis and the evolution of labour relations in the UK" explains the trade union bill proposals and concludes inter alia that several measures taken under the Conservative-led government have shifted the balance of power in the workplace in favour of the employers on a range of issues.

Participants therefore felt that UK workers were better off within the EU where the social acquis protects them from such attacks on their rights and that workers in the UK and Europe had a common interest to work together to improve Social Europe.

The meeting ended on a positive note with participants emphasizing their support for a fair and social Europe and their determination to oppose the UK trade union bill or any other attempt to reduce workers' rights in Britain or elsewhere. The pillar of social rights that was recently proposed by the EC is a solid basis for trade unions to build on in this common endeavor.