Stefano Fella has worked in research and policy roles for trade unions for several years. He has previously worked as a lecturer in politics at London Metropolitan University and a researcher at the University of Trento.

Thirteen of the largest trade unions in the UK are calling for a remain vote in the referendum on EU membership.

The 13 unions represent over four million workers - 70% of the affiliated membership of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) - and include the 4 largest unions: the Unite general union, the UNISON public services union, the GMB general union and the Usdaw shopworkers’ union. 

The position of trade unions on the referendum are examined in more detail in my article for Labour Research magazine, based on a survey of 27 of the 30 largest trade unions affiliated to the Trades Union Congress (read the article here).

Three unions are in the “Leave” camp — the RMT transport, ASLEF rail and BFAWU bakers’ and food workers’ unions, with the rest (mainly teachers, civil service and specialists’ unions) remaining neutral.

The most common reason cited in support of continuing EU membership is the protections given by EU treaties and legislation for workers’ rights, and the potential threat to these rights, under a Conservative government, should Britain leave the EU. The threat to jobs posed by a Brexit is also stressed.

The trade unions supporting Brexit cite the EU’s agenda of liberalisation and privatisation, the imposition of austerity on member states receiving EU bail-outs, and threats to public services and labour rights posed by TTIP and other international trade agreements being negotiated by the EU.

But many of the unions backing remain are also highly critical of the EU for these reasons.  But they argue that trades unions need to work together to fight to change the EU, so that it focuses more on promoting employment, greater equality and social solidarity.

They also argue that the EU is an important mechanism for regulating multi-national corporations and the international economic system. And they warn that outside the EU, a post-Brexit UK government would promote a deregulatory agenda, both at home and in negotiating international trade deals.

The approach being taken by pro-remain unions was encapsulated in an article for the Daily Mirror by Dave Ward, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union. He said:

“I am not under any illusions.  The EU is far from perfect. It is not democratic enough. It is too focused on pushing competition. And it is too restrictive when it comes to public investment. So we have got to change it.

But let’s not kid ourselves. We cannot get by in the world today without working together and doing business with other countries.  We cannot deal with tax avoidance, vast inequalities in wealth or climate changes without being part of organisations like the EU. And we cannot prevent workers in this country being undercut without fair standards across Europe.

So being part of the EU, and shaping it for the better, is necessary if we are going to achieve social justice in this country.”



This article was originally published here on New Europeans.

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