The leaders of Britain’s biggest trade unions have issued a plea to 6 million members to vote to stay in the EU, warning that leaving would allow a Tory government to dismantle hard-won worker rights around parenting, holiday and equality.
In a joint intervention, the general secretaries of Unite, Unison, the GMB and Usdaw were among 10 trade union leaders warning that the Conservatives would “negotiate away our rights” if the UK decides to leave.
They argued leaving the EU would pose a great threat to maternity and paternity pay and leave, the right to paid leave for holidays and equal treatment for full, part-time and agency workers.
Their decision to fight for the UK to remain was not straightforward, as some including Unite boss Len McCluskey had hinted last year that they could back a vote to leave if David Cameron tried to water down worker rights as part of his EU negotiation.
However, in a letter to the Guardian, the 10 trade union leaders said they were clear that the social and cultural benefits of remaining in the EU far outweigh any advantages of leaving, while acknowledging it needs to change and “move away from a path of austerity”.
“Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s the British trade union movement worked in solidarity with our European partners and fought hard to secure valuable working rights legislation at EU level,” they said. “To this day these rights – including maternity and paternity rights, equal treatment for full time,…