Global Politics, UK Politicians, Worker's Rights

Brexit Means Brexit (and Lower Wages…)

February 28, 2017

As the Conservative government does an about face on immigration from the EU, Tory ministers are out in force endorsing a new position that will likely mean a drop in wages and conditions for workers in the UK.

Brexit means Brexit means… lower wages. This new Tory position is likely to mean gigantic cuts into worker’s rights, wages and power, at a time when the wealth gap between the plutocratic super rich and the increasingly desperate poor is widening at an alarming rate.

Workers coming to the UK from the EU will be exploited even more, as will British workers, as the carousel of Brexit-inspired deregulation gathers speed.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Brexit Secretary David Davies both performing reverses on the government position of a hard border between the UK and the European Union. Davies phrased it this way:

‘In the hospitality sector, hotels and restaurants, in the social care sector, working in agriculture, it will take time – it will be years and years before we get British citizens to do those jobs,’ he said.

‘Don’t expect just because we’re changing who makes the decision on the policy, the door will suddenly shut: it won’t.’

Reading between the lines is crucial. All of the job sectors listed by Davies are generally low paid, poorly unionised and unstable for workers. Exploitation is already rife in these sectors. Of course Davies doesn’t want a limited flow of workers to those areas; doing so would deprive large corporate employers of their power.

And cutting corporate interests out of the post-Brexit landscape to promote worker’s rights is certainly not on the table, as Amber Rudd declared:

‘We’re against cliff edges, so as part of the consultation that we will be bringing out in the summer we will be asking them (corporations) the best way to deliver (a successful Brexit).’

Amber Rudd has written to the Lord’s to try to ensure EU workers continue to work in the UK.

Of course corporations will encourage ministers to adopt a situation where they have a large pool of workers available. They will be keen to ensure that these workers are uncertain and fearful, thanks to deliberately enforced low wages, poor representation and desperation to keep their jobs.

Tories reassuring employers and not employees

The Tories are attempting to reassure employers that the influx of poorly paid immigrant workers into the UK won’t stop with Brexit. In fact, it will continue (and with some decided improvements for unethical employers!).

As the always excellent Craig Murray puts it:

EU workers will no longer be in the UK as fellow EU citizens with exactly the same rights as UK EU citizens. In future, the EU workers will be here on work visas, probably two or five year renewable. These will be awarded through sponsorship by their employer. That will put them at the absolute mercy of employers and make them terrified of complaint or even standing against gross abuse and illegality.

The conditions at the Sports Direct warehouse will seem good compared to what is coming in workplaces throughout the UK, once people like Mike Ashley can simply have “troublemakers” instantly deported.

The terrifying proposals for five year visas directly controlled by corporations is absolutely on the table for Theresa May’s Conservatives. People on these visas would have no security, as they would be offered no benefits in addition to being granted the visa. This would leave them completely dependent upon their employers in every facet of their working lives.

If these workers then got sick, were abused at work, were underpaid or working in unsafe conditions, they would have virtually no recourse that wouldn’t end in their corporate masters clicking their fingers and the Tories then deporting them.

Combined with the terrible Tory policy regarding housing and rentals (as described in an  earlier Thinking Pleb article), this will mean a diabolical level of uncertainty for all workers of all nationalities.

Workers from the EU will be set to lose rights and benefits in the UK, which will also lead to exploitation of British workers.

British workers feeling the pressure

Fears over high rents, rocketing house prices and legally unrestrained landlords will mean British workers are also more likely to tug the forelock in the face of pressure of work over pay/conditions/safety. They may feel that joining a union or saying no to an unscrupulous employer may be impossible.

Formal rights and protections, such as health and safety regulations and the maximum working week, are likely to be legally jettisoned, all supposedly in the name of liberating ourselves from the yoke of Brussels.

EU citizens will even lose the “citizen’s right of address by political participation and voting”. Whilst this might be welcomed by those on the right and even (ludicrously) some on the left, the real losers here are workers. Without the capacity to respond to the aggressive demands of capital and industry, workers are likely to enter a spiral of depressed pay, regressing rights in the workplace and state-endorsed suppression.

Rights being stripped away

Both EU citizens and British citizens will have their rights weakened by these developments.

If EU workers are abused and stripped of their rights, whilst still being encouraged into the workforce, this will degrade British workers pay and conditions too. In any scenario laid out by the Tories, workers lose and the elite gain.

Rights are not being stripped from EU workers so that they can be given to British workers. Anyone who believes that our neo-liberal capitalist government is likely to willingly and benevolently improve the lot of workers is naive in the extreme (and also a poor student of history).

What can we do about this?

It is crucial that pressure is exerted on local MPs and on the government in general.

Contact your MP directly or through They Work For You. Ask them about their stance on this issue and what proposals they have regarding it. Challenge them through further correspondence to represent your views more fully in Parliament.

Additionally, checking out organisations such as Liberty is crucial. They are currently working on strategies to lobby the government and pressure them into securing EU workers’ rights (which also helps to ensure the rights of British workers).

Lastly, maintaining solidarity with other workers across borders is crucial. By allowing ourselves to be divided along the boundaries of nationalism and racism, we are allowing the forces of neoliberalism to exploit us. Your enemy isn’t the Polish builder or the Italian teacher as portrayed in the media, it is the Tory MP, the head of an industrial farming corporation or the professional lobbyist.

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