All the Acts outlawing discrimination in Britain – the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 – were passed well before the EU Employment Equality Framework Directive of 2000. So our equality rights did not come from the EU; and they don’t depend on the EU either.
The law doesn’t protect you – any employer who follows procedure can fire you easily unless you have the collective strength of a trade union at work. Employers may not fire you for being a woman, or gay, or disabled or black – perish the thought – but they can fire you just because they want to.
At one workplace, the only person that the employer tried to sack who kept her job was one who had a near-unanimous vote in favour of strike action in her support. It is membership action and involvement at the workplace that wins battles, not laws from Brussels.
EU laws have done nothing to stop 56 per cent of Spain’s and 64 per cent of Greece’s young people being unemployed. And even if these laws worked, the best we could hope for would be equal numbers unemployed. Men and women, black and white, young and old, able and disabled, gay and straight, all equal but all out of work. It’s the equality of the dole queue.
But as we can see from Greece, the laws don’t even achieve that. For Greek women the unemployment rate is 29.3 per cent, 5 per cent above that of Greek men.
The EU promotes labour flexibility claiming that this will cut unemployment. Instead, flexibility has increased it. Why? Because flexibility makes it easier for the employer to sack people. No wonder the World Bank praises flexibility: it forces wages down and workers out.
Backing the EU means backing the employers’ attacks on our trade unions. Opposing the EU strengthens our trade unions against the employers’ attacks.
Some unions recognise this. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers recently called clearly for Britain’s immediate withdrawal from the EU. Seemingly a lone voice among union general secretaries, Bob Crow has urged Labour to back an in-out referendum.
With admirable clarity, writing in The Guardian on 18 May, Crow referred to the “sick joke of social Europe”. He said: “Social EU legislation, which supposedly leads to better working conditions, has not saved one job and is riddled with opt-outs for employers. It is making zero-hour contracts and agency working the norm while undermining collective bargaining and full-time, secure employment.”
The EU is bad for all the peoples of Europe. It aims to prevent countries from rebuilding their economies. It tries to stop support for British industry through state investment. It seeks to impose the free movement of capital, which stops us protecting ourselves from speculative attacks on our economy.
Each nation should be free to make its own decisions, free from the orders of the European Central Bank, the European Roundtable of Industrialists and the European Commission. ■