What matters is getting the best deal for working people – one that helps everyone, not just big business or the rich.
And it’s not just about getting the Brexit deal right. It’s about making sure that whatever the Brexit deal, there are lots more good jobs in Wales. And it’s about protecting our NHS and public services.
That’s why we need a plan that puts working people first. And that starts with getting the right Brexit deal. One that protects workers’ rights, and helps create more good jobs.
Trade unionists are negotiators. We know that any deal will require compromise. There’s no perfect option.
But on balance we believe that the best way to protect jobs and workers’ rights is to be in the single market and customs union.
Lots of Welsh jobs depend on easy trade with EU countries.
Welsh companies sell over £10bn of goods and services in EU countries every year. That’s 60 per cent of all our trade. Plus, companies from around the world set up shop here to make their products and then sell them in EU countries. Selling goods and services in EU countries supports 200,000 Welsh jobs.
There aren’t any barriers to doing business in EU countries – if we’re in the single market and customs union.
But if we’re not in the single market and customs union, trade barriers will go up. That will put lots of jobs at risk. And it will stop more overseas companies choosing to set up new factories in the UK – meaning we miss out on getting new jobs. That’s why the Wales TUC wants Wales and the UK to stay in the single market and customs union. That’s why we support the Welsh Government’s sensible approach to Brexit which is based on evidence and puts the needs of the economy and protecting jobs first.
Prices are lower if we’re in the customs union. That’s because anything we buy from EU countries has no duty on it. And that means the weekly food shop is cheaper. Everyone’s noticed that prices in the shops have already risen since the Brexit vote. Outside the customs union they could go up even more.
Lots of important rights at work come from the single market – such as the right to paid holidays, rights for part-time workers, time off for working mums and dads, equal pay for women, and limits on working hours.
Inside the single market, these rights are guaranteed. But outside, those rights could be eroded over time by UK politicians that don’t care about working people.
And it’s about the future too. After Brexit, we believe that Welsh workers should always get the same or better rights as workers in other European countries. Being in the single market helps us fight for better rights at work.
Just getting the best possible deal on Brexit isn’t enough – we need to make Wales a Fair Work nation.
Employers should resist the temptation to cut costs and cut corners by putting more workers on precarious contracts. Union research has found number of zero hours and agency contracted workers has more than doubled in Wales since 2011. This has to stop.
Migrant workers aren’t responsible for poor terms and conditions in the work place – exploitative employers are. This is why the Welsh Government needs to take action – whether we are in or out of the single market.
We are delighted by the First Minister’s commitment to make Wales a Fair Work nation and we hope that his successor will deliver on that commitment in practice. This week a Fair Work commission has been established, which will need to come forward with ambitious and pro-active options for legislation and government interventions which tackle the prevalence of low pay and precarious work in Wales. Brexit makes this work even more important.
The debate about Brexit is very complex. Some politicians want you to lose interest.
But what we want is very simple. What matters is protecting people’s jobs and rights at work, and building a Fair Work nation where everyone has a decent job.
That’s what the Wales TUC exists to do – and that’s what we want from Brexit.
Martin Mansfield, General Secretary, Wales TUC
This article first appeared in the Western Mail