The TUC and trade union love affair with the European Union began in the dark days of Thatcher, when then-President of the European Commission Jacques Delors addressed Congress and said Europe would save them from Thatcherism. It was always a false boast. Now even the boasting has stopped.
Under the REFIT (“Regulatory Fitness and Performance”) proposals the Commission will review EU legislation on workers’ rights. In language familiar to British ears it talks of “easing the burden” on business and of making EU law “lighter and simpler”.
It’s doing this by “streamlining” directives on information and consultation rights in collective redundancies and business transfers (in particular, the transfer directive known as TUPE), despite a recent review concluding they were “fit for purpose”. Nothing that could even slightly get in the way of capital is to remain.
Plans to extend these rights to smaller companies and the public sector have been shelved, permanently. Nor will the Commission be going ahead with legislation on illness or injuries associated with screen displays, tobacco smoke or carcinogens. And there will be no legislation on health and safety in hairdressing which had been agreed between unions and employers.
The European Trade Union Confederation says it only accepted the internal market on the proviso that there would be strong “social” rules. More fool it, and more fool anyone who believes in the EU. ■