The TUC has submitted evidence to the UK government consultation on its ‘freeports’ proposals.1 The government consultation document suggests a ‘freeport’ would be an area with lower taxes and tariffs and different regulation than the rest of the domestic economy.
The TUC agrees with the government’s consultation document that there is a need to ‘level up’ regions by supporting good jobs, infrastructure, quality public services and skills opportunities across the country. In order for freeports to provide this outcome, they would need to support:
· good jobs
· the highest social standards and employment rights (benchmarked against EU standards)
· robust regulation and collection of taxes
· quality public services
· infrastructure development
· skills development
· a trade deal with the EU which guarantees tariff free trade in goods and low barrier trade in services and that UK workers continue to be protected by the same standards as those found in the EU
The TUC is concerned that the government’s freeports proposals as they have been presented stand to undermine good jobs, workers’ rights and the delivery of quality public services in some parts of the country which may exacerbate, rather than address, regional inequalities.
The TUC regrets that trade unions and the workers they represent have not been engaged by government in its freeports plans to date and there are no trade union representatives on the government’s Freeports Advisory Panel.
In order to guarantee freeports deliver for workers and support local public services, infrastructure and skills, trade unions must be engaged meaningfully on their design and implementation. Unions have valuable insight into both workers’ priorities and business
The TUC believes it is crucial that any freeports proposal must also be subject to local democratic structures and scrutiny. The government must engage with local government, unions, employers and local civic partners to ensure freeports and any infrastructure developed to support them promotes good jobs, supports high employment and safety standards and adequate skills investment.
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