The EU is a bosses' club: Wales TUC shouldn't support it

16th April 2014

Support No2EU - Yes to Workers Rights in the European elections

Ronnie Job, Secretary Swansea Trades Council (personal capacity)

I have a double-celebration on May 1st - as well as it being International Workers' Day it's the anniversary of my wedding to Claire.

But unlike me and Claire, Wales TUC has this year decided to celebrate May 1st with a partner they should have long ago separated from, the Labour Party. Together, at an event in the Assembly, they will highlight the EU's "contribution to workers' rights". That would be the rules that allow labour imported from other countries to be exempted from locally negotiated union terms and conditions then? Or maybe they mean the free trade treaty being negotiated between the US and the EU which requires the opening of health care and other public services to competition and privatisation? 

It is interesting that the Wales TUC is lending its support to what is essentially a Welsh Labour election rally, just 3 weeks before the elections to the European Parliament. Our annual conference finishes on election day, 22 May, but delegates are only allowed to debate matters devolved to Wales so we will not be able to discuss the EU. So who, delegates might ask, decided to back Labour's stance on Europe?

The EU is a bosses’ club which is steering a race to the bottom on workers’ incomes, terms and conditions. It is undermining workers’ rights. It is part of the ‘troika’ that has demanded harsher and harsher austerity in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Italy, the list goes on, inflicting misery on millions of people in the process. This is exactly why the Socialist Party participates in No2EU, which demands an exit from the EU in order to fight austerity.

But, if the EU is no friend to workers and trade unionists then exactly the same thing can be said about Welsh Labour. The Labour Welsh Government, together with the NHS employers, is tearing up NHS workers terms and conditions, set out in the ‘Agenda for Change’ agreement. Labour Councils in Wales have all passed on Con-Dem cuts but some have gone even further. Swansea issued a public “sign or be sacked” threat to UNISON members standing to lose up to 10% of their pay in new contracts. Carmarthenshire Council has now been forced to suspend its threat to end all union secondments because of a campaign led by the Carmarthenshire UNISON branch but the threat is still there. Bridgend has announced they no longer intend to honour nationally-negotiated pay awards and Cardiff’s UNISON branch is currently threatening to ballot for strike action because the Council is planning to cut pay.

The relationship between the Labour Party and the trade unions has become entirely one-sided, where trade unionists are expected to support Labour policy, even when it is clearly not in our interests, like support for the EU. In return all we get from Labour councils and a Labour Welsh Government is, at best, a willingness to pass on Con-Dem cuts and at worst, outright attacks on our members. 

It is time to end that relationship. The only candidates in council, assembly or parliamentary elections deserving of trade union support are those committed to defending our members, like the Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition.

Claire is on the No2EU list for Wales in the European elections and as soon as the Wales TUC ends, I will be making my way back from Llandudno to cast my vote for an exit from the EU on socialist policies.
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