Residents ‘did not vote for fewer rights at work’
HINTS coming from prominent Conservative Brexit campaigners that workers’ rights could be slimmed down have been attacked by Grimsby’s MP.
Ex-Cabinet ministers Michael Gove and John Whittingdale questioned business officials during a Brexit Select Committee meeting, asking whether there were “opportunities to reduce the burden on business”.
Mr Gove, a prominent figure in the Vote Leave campaign, asked Carolyn Fairbairn, the director general of the CBI, if she saw scope for “potential repeal or reduction” of the statutory requirement for 20-weeks paid maternity leave or the directive giving temporary workers the same rights as permanent staff.
Melanie Onn, Labour MP for Great Grimsby, has been leading the opposition’s charge on protecting all the current rights which are enjoyed by UK workers under European law.
The former trade unionist campaigner seized on the comments, saying that, while the majority of people in North East Lincolnshire may have wanted to leave the European Union, they didn’t vote “to be less safe or have fewer rights at work”.
“Employment protections aren’t unnecessary regulations,” she said. “They give workers guaranteed holiday time, protect people’s jobs when the company they work for changes owners, and prevent employers from exploiting their staff.
“The referendum vote shouldn’t be used by the Tories as an excuse to make working people worse off.”
A private members bill put forward by Ms Onn, calling for current EU protections to be absorbed into UK law before Brexit, will receive its first reading on January 13.
She says, as things currently stand, a post-Brexit government could change parental leave or alter protections for agency workers – something suggested by Mr Gove – “without even a vote in parliament”.
Martin Vickers, Tory MP for Cleethorpes, said Theresa May had already made reassurances that workers’ right would be protected.
“I didn’t hear what Michael Gove said but the Government, through the Prime Minister, has made it clear that they see no likelihood of reducing employment protections or employment benefit laws and regulations,” said Mr Vickers.
“And that’s the end of the story as far as I’m concerned.”
John Longworth, the former chair of the British Chamber of Commerce, who campaigned to leave, also appeared before the Brexit committee, telling members that he thought the “opportunities for deregulation are legion”.
He said 10 per cent of EU regulations could be lifted without harming workers’ rights, including the decree which means smoked salmon producers have to stamp supermarket-bound packets with a ‘may contain fish’ warning.
Mr Longworth went on to suggest that some employment-based restrictions could be lifted to allow people such as lorry drivers “to do overtime if they wish” – a pertinent issue for freight transport companies in Immingham.
Mr Vickers said he would like to see “light touch” regulation introduced after Brexit “where it was warranted”.
“It is clearly a ludicrous situation where fish products have labels saying they ‘contain fish’ – it’s mindless,” he said.
“And the Department for Transport (DfT) is perfectly capable of regulating the freight industry – we don’t need it regulating from Brussels.
“I am in favour of some limits being placed on driving hours,” he continued.
“We don’t want people on the roads for 20 hours at a time or whatever. I’m sure the majority of companies would impose a sensible limit but I think it should be a framework led by the DfT.”
December 12th, Grimsby Telegraph