Opinion: By backing a second referendum, GMB show commitment to workers' rights where Labour have failed

Opinion: By backing a second referendum, GMB show commitment to workers' rights where Labour have failed

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A student of History and Politics at Oxford, Angus Brown has been a member of the Labour Party since 2017 and is a supporter of Our Future our Choice. Here, he explains why he agrees with GMB Union's stance on a second referendum. 

Adding their voice to that of the Royal College of Nursing and the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA), the GMB union have called for a public vote on the final Brexit deal.

Though the union originally supported Remain, GMB have avoided the obfuscations of Len McCluskey and Unite and stood up for the rights and protections of its members which are gravely at risk given the direction of current Brexit negotiations.

We know that the trades unions’ relationship with the European project has always been complex, and it took time and reflection for GMB to arrive at this position.


'Brexit could allow the government to take away worker protections'

Watch: Our Future, Our Choice's Femi Oluwole tells Julia Hartley-Brewer why he wants Labour to support a second referendum

In the 1950s, Herbert Morrison's Labour famously (or perhaps, infamously) rejected the EU precursor the European Steel and Coal Community, saying British workers 'wouldn't wear it' and effectively dismissing the entire concept.

But GMB have now made it clear that British workers are better off in Europe than out, and as a Labour member and supporter of the trades unions, I heartily agree.

Though Theresa May has promised to build “a country that works for everyone”, the dogmatic Brexit her government is pursuing under the pressure of arch-Thatcherites like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson would do the opposite.

Crashing out of the European Union could have a real, negative impact on workers’ rights.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab claimed in his speech last month that they'd be absorbed into British law, but Brexit would allow the government to take away key protections including, but not limited to, the 14-week minimum maternity leave, the 40-hour working week, and the minimum 11 hours of “rest time” per day specified in the Working Time Directive if they pleased.


'This is not about petty allegiances'

We need only to look at “Britannia Unchained” - the book written by Raab and fellow Tory MPs Elizabeth Truss, Priti Patel, Chris Skidmore and Kwasi Kwarteng - and its claims that the British are “some of the worst idlers in the world”, to speculate on the plans Raab and his allies have for a Britain “liberated” from such pesky things as EU mandated workers’ rights.  

GMB’s call for a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal, and its leader Tim Roache’s opposition to a Brexit which brings “economic chaos or… puts jobs and hard-won rights on the line” are vital if we want to protect the interests of working people in this country. The British left and trade unions must stand up to the government and let them know we won’t accept a Brexit which puts British jobs at risk.

This is no longer about petty political allegiances - this is about preserving our country.

GMB sees the necessity of a vote on the final deal to protect the national interest, given the potential costs of a mismanaged Brexit which they and many young trades unionists may have to live with for decades.

Championing the cause of young people’s future employability in a way that Labour has so far failed to do is a key left-wing value.

As a member of the young persons’ advocacy group Our Future, Our Choice, which is committed to bringing together those of all political opinions to safeguard the interests of young people regarding Brexit, I applaud GMB for their bold and necessary commitment to British workers.