Enrico Tortolano, campaign director for Trade Unionists Against the EU: the EU threatens workers’ rights and jobs

logo-bwEnrico Tortolano, campaign director for Trade Unionists Against the EU: the EU threatens workers’ rights and jobs

Enrico Tortolano
Enrico Tortolano

It’s being argued that the EU underpins our rights and that if we leave Britain we will become prey to a Conservative government free to attack workers in ever more aggressive ways. These fears are not justified. It is not the EU that protects our rights; the EU is their greatest threat.

We have rights because trade unions and the labour movement fought for them. The struggles for improved workers’ rights in Britain were long and hard and led to many advances here before similar rights were secured in other countries. Our rights were not given by a right-wing EU, but by our determination to fight for them and our ability to channel this action into laws through our parliament.

The right to vote has always posed a threat to organised capital, especially since the second world war when reform of the economy in the interests of working people began to be realised. Today the EU has become the means by which people are once again segregated and marginalised from those in power. As EU laws become more distant from democratic control, they inevitably act against the interests of working people and in favour of large corporations and corporate finance.

The lack of transparency and the complexity of law making have allowed the powerful business lobby to shape the EU’s agenda in its interests. The secretive TTIP deal is a perfect example of how remote and elitist the EU really is.

As a result, the EU is eroding workers’ rights across the continent. Two rulings by the European court of justice (ECJ) make the point. In both the Viking Line andLaval cases, the ECJ created new restrictions on industrial action and required these to be recognised in UK courts. In short, they ruled that employers’ rights always trump workers’ rights.

The recent fiscal waterboarding of Greece by the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund brilliantly illustrated the new limits of national democratic power in the eurozone. These neoliberal policies are part of an austerity agenda intent on cutting public pensions, applying downward pressure on wages, privatising public services and removing the safety net of benefits right across the EU.

The EU has no regard for our most fundamental right either – the right to work. EU reforms have devastated employment on a staggering scale. More than 21 million people are unemployed in the EU today. According to Eurostat, the average rate of unemployment among under-25s across the eurozone is 21%. In Spain the figure is 45% and in Greece it is 51%.

There is no democratic governance, only management of austerity measures and of repression by unelected commissioners and financiers. The treaties have ensured reform remains an illusion. That is why now is the time to leave the EU.


Article from The Guardian 

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