There can be no more excuses for inaction on issues such as working conditions and putting workers’ voices at the heart of industrial strategy, the GMB union has warned.
Among the reactions from unions, GMB’s stood out for saying that the deal could benefit workers, but only if the prime minister delivered on his promises.
“For too long, jester Johnson has been playing to the political gallery over our departure from the EU, it is now time for him to address the economic and jobs reality of this decision,” said Warren Kenny, Acting GMB General Secretary.
“If the Government is serious about building back better, then they need to build back better in the UK. That means levelling up on workers’ rights,”
Other unions, however, said there was little hope for a better future for workers under the deal struck last year which cemented the UK’s relationship with the EU.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady dismissed the deal as only ‘marginally’ better than nothing: “It won’t protect jobs and puts hard-won workers’ rights on the line. This deal is on the prime minister’s head – it’s his responsibility to make sure working families don’t end up worse off.”
Scottish national union body STUC warned that future Trade Bills with other countries such as the US could see reduced standards across a range of policy areas. STUC general secretary Roz Foyer said: “This is a right-wing Tory government which is no friend of working people. Many within its ranks will seek to limit workplace rights in the period ahead.”
Labour failed to amend the bill, which brought the trade deal into force on 31 December, to include additional protections for workers’ rights and environmental standards. Labour leader Keir Starmer said it was a ‘thin agreement’ that did not protect workplace rights as it stood, but that Labour had no choice but to back it.
“Up against no deal, we accept this deal, but the consequences of it are yours,” Starmer told the Prime Minister. “No longer can you blame somebody else. Responsibility for this deal – lies squarely at the door of Number 10.”
The government has promised that it will make the UK ‘the best place in the world to work’. It is due to publish enhancements to workers’ rights in a forthcoming Employment Bill.
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