As the UK moves inextricably towards triggering Article 50 in a few weeks time Unite has launched a new website and resource - BrexitCheck - which is designed to help Unite members get to grips with what is happening on Brexit and to sound the alarm if Brexit threatens their jobs, employment rights and living standards.
Unite has been campaigning to make sure the UK continues to have tariff free access to the EU Single Market, membership the Customs Union, that investment continues to flow into UK manufacturing and infrastructure projects, that EU acquired employment rights are protected and that the Government develops an robust industrial strategy to withstand the problems we will undoubtedly face from Brexit.
The Prime Minister has put immigration controls above all else, seemingly abandoning full access to the Single Market and continuing membership of the Customs Unions – and the result in the past few weeks has been plain for all to see.
Companies in the UKs booming automotive sector have announced that they may have to think long hard about future investment includeding BMW on the location of production for the new electric Mini. The takeover of GM-Opal by Peugeot clearly has its foundations in the uncertainty caused by Brexit, as does Ford’s decision to down-scale production at its engine plant in Bridgend. Even Nissan with its ‘special deal’ has said it might have to think again.
But it is not just the auto sector which is worried about tariffs on imports and exports adding massively to costs of production and the effects of not being in the single market and Customs Union will have. Companies in aerospace, engineering, tyres, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, ceramics and steel are becoming increasingly nervous at the uncertainty caused by the government’s priorities.
May’s dash to see Trump in the USA and then a visit Turkey was designed to put down markers about future trade deals. This ad hoc approach and ministers statements about trade deals with New Zealand, India, Mexico and elsewhere has not helped. Manufacturers know that their main export market lies predominantly in the EU – a tariff free one and a frictionless supply chain through membership of the Customs Union.
Unite has also received early indications of Brexit having a direct impact in the workplace.
Some companies have told us they are looking to put decisions on investment on hold. A number of the trade associations we talk with to tell us that some skilled staff working here from outside of the UK are heading home while they can – one, because of the uncertainty of their status and two because there are vacancies at home.
One major trade assocation says we will also face a skills crisis as applications for skilled vacancies for skilled workers in the EU have all but dried up. Engineering UK have stated the UK will need 180,000 skilled engineers year on year until 2020.
Unite members at one company have reported that they are being prevented from undertaking union negotiations with EU colleagues by their UK employer who says that it no longer sees any value in cross-border working relations.
Unite will be monitoring the impact of the uncertainty swirling around the UK’s new future outside of the remaining 27 member states and we will identify problems for pay, conditions, investment and jobs as it continues its fight for a Brexit that works for working people.
In creating an online tool – BrexitCheck
– Unite will be providing a ‘workers eye view’ view of the most important debates and decisions facing the country and its communities for generations.
Launching the website, Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Unite has members in all the nations of these isles, giving us a unique perspective on the Brexit process. Decisions made in the coming months will direct the course of our nations and people for many years to come, which is why Unite is determined that the voice of working people will be heard.
“People may have voted to be out of Europe, they did not vote to be poorer or out of work. That is why we are urging members to sound the alarm, or even report on positive developments, when Brexit impacts on their workplace and their communities. Top of our list is that the UK must retain access to the single market and membership of the customs union. It is abundantly clear that the jobs, core industries and prosperity of all four nations of the UK rely heavily on this access - so for the prime minister to stubbornly refuse to make this her priority is reckless because it places this country and its people on a very uncertain road.
“Along that road we will also have to fight to retain the rights of working people. Whatever the prime minister may say about preserving workers’ rights, there are too many in her party licking their lips at the prospect of a low tax, low pay, no rights UK for workers to feel at all confident about the country that will emerge after 2019.
“We will carry on, too, the fight to convince the government to end its repugnant treatment of EU migrants living in, working in and contributing to our country. Human beings should not be used as bargaining chips and the government’s determination to do so diminishes the UK in the eyes of the world.”
You can visit BrexitCheck by clicking on https://www.unitebrexitcheck.org/
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