Why UNISON supports a vote to remain in the EU

Remain in EU large

On 23 June we will take part in a referendum that will determine whether or not the UK remains in or leaves the European Union. UNISON has held a branch consultation and concluded that to leave would put our employment rights, public services and the economy at significant risk.

This is not to suggest that UNISON is an uncritical supporter of the EU. Far from it. But UNISON also believes that a more socially just world economy is best secured by our ability to work alongside sister unions within the EU.

Rights at work

Many of the rights and protections at work that we take for granted have come about because of EU legislation that parliament has passed into law. It is these rights that Leave campaigners are talking about when they complain about the EU foisting ‘red tape’ on businesses:

  • TUPE (Transfers of undertakings) rights when an organisation (eg a public service) is being outsourced or transferred.
  • Collective redundancies and right to consultation.
  • Minimum paid annual leave – 28 days a year.
  • Fair treatment rights for agency and temporary workers.
  • Pregnancy and maternity leave rights.
  • Parental leave and rights to time off work for urgent family reasons.
  • Working time which includes a maximum of a 48 hour week unless you agree otherwise, and minimum rest breaks each day.
  • Equal treatment rights and equal pay for part-time, fixed-term, outsourced and agency workers.
  • Health and safety regulations.
  • Rights for workers’ representatives to receive information and be consulted, particularly in the context of restructuring.

If we left the EU there would be nothing to stop the government from reducing or taking away any or all of them.

Public Services

The amount of money available to pay for our public services such as local government,the NHS, policing and education is directly related to the strength of the economy. A badly performing economy can’t provide the income the government needs to properly fund them.

Many of our public services are approaching crisis point as a result of the government’s austerity programme. The best case scenario predicted by the government is that leaving the EU would reduce public sector income by £24 billion a year by the mid 2020s. That would mean thousands of job losses, downgrading and even the closure of services essential to our wellbeing.

Pay, terms and conditions and pensions would take a hit too. Pay freezes and cuts to terms and condition would become the norm if public sector income continued to fall. And as a third of public sector pensions are invested in UK share they could be under threat if as predicted share values fall as a result of Brexit.

Recruitment into social care and the NHS would also be hit if EU workers were no longer able to freely live and work in the UK.

The economy

More than half our trade is with the countries of the EU. Leaving will remove the access we have to the single market trading area – with no guarantee about the future terms of trade that UK businesses would be subject to. UK manufacturers could find themselves facing the same tariffs on their exports that are imposed on other non-EU countries, making them less competitive. If companies can’t take advantage of the single market that membership of the EU provides their exports will fall – as will their profit and the number of jobs they can support.

The Treasury has estimated the average loss to each household will be around £4,000 a year. But the losses go further than just our own pockets. The poorest regions of the UK will lose access to the EU Structural Funds which created more than 50,000 jobs between 2007 and 2013. We will also lose access to other forms of funding including the European Investment Bank which has funded project such as £280million for research at Rolls Royce in Derby, £235million for new trains for the East Coast Mainline and £350million for the construction of new social housing across the UK.

The Bank of England and the IMF have warned that the uncertainty over the UK’s future after a vote to leave would lead to market instability; lower investment, higher inflation and increased interest rates will impact on house prices, savings accounts and pension funds.

More information

UNISON has produced a series of fact sheets:

Your rights at work
How are your employment protected by the EU, and would leaving make a difference?

The EU and public services 
How are public services affected, and what about TTIP?

Jobs and the UK economy
What are the benefits to the economy of the UK remaining in the EU?

Would leaving the EU increase spending on the NHS or protect it from privatisation?

You can also find out more on the national website.