PM’s Workers’ rights pledges a 'desperate and narrow' attempt to win favour

Proposals to give Parliament a vote on adopting future EU rules on workers' rights have failed to reassure unions after they were announced by Theresa May’s office yesterday.

The Prime Minister has pledged to introduce new measures to protect and improve workers' rights after Britain leaves the EU. They include a requirement for Parliament to be ‘given regular updates’ on changes to EU legislation on workers’ rights and will give MPs a ‘choice on the action’ government will take in response.

The new process will start with two EU Directives that come into force following the Implementation Period – the Work Life Balance Directive and the Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Directive.

The Work Life Balance Directive introduces new rights for parents and carers, such as 2 months of paid leave for each parent up until the child is 8 and also 5 days of leave for those caring for sick relatives.

However, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady dismissed the changes as ‘flimsy procedural tweaks’: “They come nowhere close to ensuring existing rights are protected. And they won’t stop workers’ rights in the UK from falling behind those in the rest of Europe."

She added: “There’s nothing to stop a future right-wing government tearing up this legislation altogether. MPs must not be taken in by this blatant window dressing. Our hard-won rights are still under threat.”

The TUC wants a long-term, legally binding guarantee for workers’ rights to be written into the Withdrawal Agreement. It has also argued that the best way to protect workers’ rights is to stick with Single Market and Customs Union rules.

MPs will get to vote on new rights for parents and carers, says the Prime Minister

The Guardian editorial called the move a “dismal attempt” illustrative only of how “desperate and narrow [May’s] political ambition has become.”

“Her current interest in protecting workers’ rights is tactical. It is part of the daily scrabble for a majority,” said the paper.

GMB union said the measures were meaningless. In a statement, Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, said: “No one should be under any illusion - support for the Prime Minister’s bad Brexit deal means swapping strong legal protections on workers’ rights for legally unenforceable tweaks that are not worth the paper they are written on.

“As a trade union we know that assurances on ‘non-regression’ are meaningless if there is no way to enforce them. 

“The crux of this announcement seems to be that Parliament can make new laws if it wants – it can already do that, that’s not a headline, and Ministers on the Government benches have been more interested in removing worker’s rights than protecting them.”

The Fire Brigades Union commented on Twitter: “The Tories have consistently attacked and undermined workers’ rights, wrecked public services and driven down wages. We should have no trust or confidence in them whatsoever on these matters.”

Government announcement here