Labour will act on living standards – and Europe has a role to play

16th May, 2014 4:43 pm

One of the strange things about being an MEP during a European election campaign is how little people want to talk about Europe on the doorstep. Jobs, the economy, the cost of living – these are the issues that keep coming up, not our membership of the European Union. And with a poll yesterday showing a 54%-37% majority in favour of staying in, there’s hardly a clamour for exit.

Yet on those key living standards issues, Europe does have a role to play, and it is Labour MEPs, together with our colleagues in the European Parliament, that have fought to protect and extend British workers’ rights such as paid leave, maternity rights and equal rights for agency workers – rights that David Cameron and Nigel Farage want to scrap.

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Today, I am visiting the Airbus factory in Chester with Ed Miliband, where we will see first hand the benefits of our membership of the European Union, at its best, an example of the EU working for Britain, with workers – local and migrants – on good wages and with good employment conditions, and the plant bringing prosperity to the area and to our country.

However, not everyone is benefitting as fully from our membership and this is an area where Labour would act. Another concern during the election campaign has been the impact of immigration on jobs and working conditions, with many businesses exploiting migrants and undercutting wages, and again, it is at European level that Labour MEPs have been fighting for rights for workers, wherever they are, to fair treatment. We oppose unfair zero-hour contracts, and will stamp down on abuse by predatory bosses who use them to exploit workers and avoid paying fair wages.

Labour will ban employers from being able to require zero-hours workers to be available on the off chance that they will be needed, stop employees from being required to work exclusively for one firm if they are on a zero-hours contract, and ban the use of zero-hours contracts when employees are in practice working regular hours.

Labour MEPs have strengthened rights for agency workers to help protect living standards, but there is more to do. There is a loophole in the laws around Britain’s interpretation of the European agency rules which allows firms to avoid paying agency workers at the same rates as directly-employed staff. We will work with British business and others to stop the loophole in the Agency Workers Directive being used to undercut the pay of non-agency staff, and we will ensure Directives like the Posted Workers Directive are effective.

Immigration brings huge benefits to our country, as does our membership of the European Union – a recent study found European migrants contributed 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits, with a separate report finding households are £3,000 better off by being in the EU – but there is concern about the impact the pace of change has had here, especially about a race to the bottom in wages and working conditions.

Without universal rights and protections throughout the Single Market, guaranteed at European level and properly enforced, we will continue to see exploitation of migrant labour and the undercutting of local workers. Shutting our borders, closing ourselves off from the world, isn’t going to work, but Europe has got to change, and we will reform it.

While the Conservatives, if they win the general election, will spend the next few years banging on about membership in the run-up to a referendum, the prospect of which is already causing huge uncertainty, Labour, in Brussels and Westminster, will get on with tackling the problems outlined above. Many of these need Europe-wide action, and it is Labour MEPs who can achieve this by being engaged and involved, while the Tories stand up for the wrong people in Brussels.

Glenis Wilmott is MEP for the East Midlands and Labour’s leader in the European Parliament

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  • gunnerbear

    “Immigration brings huge benefits to our country, as does our membership of the European Union – a recent study found European migrants contributed 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits, with a separate report finding households are £3,000 better off by being in the EU – but there is concern about the impact the pace of change has had here, especially about a race to the bottom in wages and working condition….”

    Weird the House of Lords report didn’t find any of the above apart from the downward pressure on wages.

    • treborc1

      I suspect when Gordon asked the local Yokel to cut his grass, and he said ten pounds sire, Gordon saw Blue and said no way, lets get the Polish in they’ll work for a fiver.

    • leslie48

      The majority of economists as well as the three major parties believe being with our other 27 partners bring enormous benefits to our trade, jobs and exports; this is not in dispute; our unions want us in if only to keep our job rights up to the same standards of the continent. America, Japan want us in and have suggested banks, services would leave the city and manufacturing like Toyota and Honda – as we would no longer be a gateway into the massive trading bloc which is the community; our living standards would decline for two reasons; leaving Europe and our 27 partners puts us at economic risk but also it allows the anti-European Right in England to hasten a form of Neo-Liberalism which would leave English workers low paid, isolated and unrepresented. Go read the manifesto of that very right wing party and see what awaits most people except the very rich.

      • gunnerbear

        ” as we would no longer be a gateway into the massive trading bloc which is the community; our living standards would decline for two reasons; leaving Europe and our 27 partners puts us at economic risk…”

        Err…we buy far more off the EU26 than they buy from us. They’d trade happily with us and the WTO rules would make sure of that.

        “also it allows the anti-European Right in England to hasten a form of Neo-Liberalism which would leave English workers low paid, isolated and unrepresented.”

        Which is what the English / UK population would have voted for if they pick those parties or are you saying the average voter is too stupid to be allowed to pick? Or is it that – for narrow party reasons alone – you don’t want the Scots to go thus ensuring a ‘foreign’ Red Mob bloc in the HoC always exists to take even more cash for Scotland.

        • leslie48

          I do not accept any of your arguments as correct as the EU is our largest trade partner and is the way we access many of the global markets too who have agreements with the european bloc not single states. People are free to vote for the Conservative party or the UKIP people. In a democracy we debate these issues and we are free to warn peoples the dangers of electing right wing parties. I wonder why you are on this site as it is clear you are not here for educational reasons.

          • gunnerbear

            Actually, one of the reasons I like to visit LL and other sites is to engage with others who argue for other viewpoints. For example, you talk about the ‘dangers’ of electing right wing parties……
            …….as a blue collar worker, I’ve seen a Red Mob CotE raid my occ. pension scheme on the grounds of ‘only rich people have one’ in an attempt by the CotE (yes Gordo the Ungreat) to take a huge chunk of my hard earned savings to spend on the f**kin’ scroungers who think that £26k of taxpayer provided income still isn’t enough. I’d love to be given £26k tax free to pay for a lifestyle that has would take about £44k before tax to ‘earn’.
            If you’ll allow me to continue, I should be a Red Mob voter, but the Red Mob want me (on hard earned income) to pay for the wasters, scroungers and filth of the world as the Red Mob threw the doors of the UK open to all and sundry.
            Sorry…no deal.
            And if I complain about the doors of the UK being opened to all and sundry who have never paid a f**kin’ penny into the UK yet demand to use our hospitals or the f**kin’ scum of the world who complain about being deported after they’ve abused the hospitality of the UK (even as Red Mob mouthpieces on the public purse give it the lip about how horrible the UK is)……then suddenly I’m a right winger who is outside of the Labour movement….
            ….Labour movement…..whatever the f**k that is supposed to mean.
            As to the EU…..if the UK left tomorrow the major player in the EU would s**t itself and ignore any EU rules to get us to stay and play and trade. They’ve said as much.

          • leslie48

            Interestingly enough most migrants ( e.g. the Polish) have been net tax contributors, that is to say per head of the population they work more compared to our own ( often they’ re younger) and draw less benefits than we do.

            Tax under Labour was by no means excessive, was reduced on lower incomes and was supplemented by tax credits ( pre- Blair the UK had more kids in poverty than most of Europe). Yes NI went up to pay for better NHS/schooling etc.,so that cancer appts /waits etc were ( not now) were reduced etc.,

            Under Blair we were lucky the economy was growing, our jobless figs were low and inflation was low so we derived big tax revenue from the City/finance/services which helped pay for improved opportunities /infrastructure etc.,

            I do not deny that some immigration was disproportional and that some areas like Brent in NW London bore a far higher cost than say devon or cumbria etc., ( Although many migrants have settled & started business ) Nor do I deny that other parts of London like Kensington are now bought up by the very rich from abroad and that wealth in London is now very disproportional compared to the UK although of course you do not here the politicians complain about that as Boris likes it.
            We have not controlled the foreign purchase of property.

            However on your general points no – inequality, fraud, tax evasion, poverty is widespread across most groups and found in torbay or wales where there are few immigrants. In the end your analysis of the UK is distorted by a right wing ideology which believes migration is the root cause etc., That is too simple …

  • EricBC

    This is an article about YOUR election to EU Parliament. Tell us what YOU do!

    What does the following mean?
    ”Labour MEPs have strengthened rights for agency workers to help protect living standards,”

    How? How does it work? How much better off are agency workers? Give us some examples of agency workers you have met who are better off.

    Can you do that?

  • Mouch

    Who are you? What is an MEP?

    • leslie48

      Your ignorance is profound

      • Mouch

        Your inability to appreciate irony is staggering. Are you stupid, or American?

  • wycombewanderer

    Living standards could be raised by not paying 8 billion a year to the EU and just cooperating with other countries.

    You know like we did to build Concorde and the jaguar aircraft both of which occured before the EU existed with even airbus producing it’s first aircraft in 1972 again before the UK joined the then EEC.

    It’s bogus tosh like the author is spouting that makes the job so easy for eurosceptics!

    • gunnerbear

      “Living standards could be raised by not paying 8 billion a year to the EU and just cooperating with other countries.”

      And make no mistake, our EU trading partners would still trade with the UK given we buy far more from them than they buy from us.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    I have not had a single leaflet in my letter box from Labour about the elections, either European or for the Council. It seems that Labour in Cambridgeshire simply do not care. I have had leaflets from the Tories, UKIP, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.

    So I have no ideas at all as to the positive messages Labour have for Cambridgeshire at either local or European level. So why should I vote for a Labour candidate?

    As it is, I think I will vote for the Green local councillor position, and UKIP for MEP. Neither will be able to actually do anything worthwhile because both positions are completely powerless, but I will at least register discontent.

    • gunnerbear

      Jamie,

      You’re like millions of other voters in the UK – written off by one party or another as you’re in a ‘safe seat’ and the opposition to those in that safe seat rarely bother.

    • PoundInYourPocket

      Surely you vote for the party whose views and aims accord with your own, not just on wether or not they post you a leaflet. You’re assumption about Labour finances is correct. Hence they are probably targetting people/areas rather than delivering to everyone. But to vote UKIP just because you don’t get a leaflet delivered on a silver platter is an odd response. Presumably you wish to leave the EU , hence your UKIP vote, in which case the leaflet would have been wasted, showing correct Labour targetting.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        I believe we probably all vote for complex reasons. My vote for UKIP would be to signify my support for the principle that I believe the British public should be consulted that the trade body they voted to join has turned itself into a body wishing to achieve supra-national sovereignty, and that is quite different. I think we as a nation should be consulted. In the event of a referendum, whether I vote in or out depends upon what is on offer: if a trading association, then in, if to become a mere region of the United States of Europe then out. So my support of UKIP in this election is the only way I can register my desire that Britain has a referendum.

        • PoundInYourPocket

          Well – I agree with your general distate for the institution of the EU in that it is fundamentaly undemocratic. However can you really as presumably a Labour sympathiser/voter bring yourself to cast a vote in favour of UKIP. I have just been delivered yet more UKIP propaganda. The latest newspaper wrag is the worst I’ve had so far, it’s full of scaremongering and hateful rhetoric. IfI voted in favour of this vile rhetoric I wouldn’t able to look my children in the eye. I’ve always and still do believe in fundamnetal egalitarian non-discriminatory principles. There may be an issue with uncontrolled EU immigration but that is as nothing compared to the stance we all must take against the hateful inflamatory rhetoric that wealth UKIP donners are currently spreading and delivering to my doorstep.

          • MonkeyBot5000

            Politicians stopped responding to reason a long time ago so I’m no longer going to be a reasonable voter.

            I’ll be voting UKIP as it seems to be the most effective way of spoiling my ballot.

          • PoundInYourPocket

            If you vote UKIP then you are both supporting and encouraging the UKIP party. If it’s in the EU elections and you are anti-EU, OK that’s your decision. But please consider the effect that UKIP candidates have on local people and public services when voting in local elections. In my local area they are frankly a menace. Just had a door-step conversation with a local resident and UKIP supporter who blames all “immigrants” for everything he can think of, including “disrespecting young girls” and “spitting”. Whilst UKIP may not be a racist party they are whipping up a storm of racist rhetoric that will lead to racial tensions being raised. Also they will if elected onto local councils do all they can to futher reduce services that vulnerable people rely on. Protest votes might make you feel good but voting UKIP has serious implications for all of us.

          • MonkeyBot5000

            We’ve got a fantastic group of independent councilors who regularly poll more votes than all the party candidates combined and I certainly wouldn’t vote UKIP at the national level.

            Voting for them as MEPs will have no real impact on my life, but it will annoy the rest of the parties.

          • PoundInYourPocket

            “Voting for them as MEPs will have no real impact on my life, but it will annoy the rest of the parties.”
            We’ve seen already what happens as UKIP’s poll share increases. The main parties ramp up their anti-immigration policies. We saw it the other day from Ed Balls. What I’d like to see is a more transparent and democratic EU that focuses more on social issues rather than being a free-market cheap labour zone. But voting UKIP won’t lead to reform other than perhaps an increase in anti-immigration policies from the main parties. I always thought of the left as an internationalist movement rather than nationalistic little-englanders. The only party I’m aware of that are serious about EU reform are the Greens.

          • MonkeyBot5000

            “The main parties ramp up their anti-immigration policies.”

            That’s because are they terrible people and I’m not going to be held responsible for their idiot ideas.

            It’s not my fault if they decide that they are only willing to hear our opinions via the medium of the EU elections or that we are all using it as a proxy for immigration concerns.

    • MonkeyBot5000

      I’ve had a Labour leaflet just north of you in Peterborough. You’re not missing much, it’s mostly about what Labour say they’ll do in government rather than Europe.

      The No2EU leaflet looks more enticing. A group of socialists and trade unionists who want to leave to stop NHS privatisation and develop sustainable manufacturing in the UK.

      I’ve no idea how they hope to achieve any of that, but at least they seem to believe in something.

  • Everyone tends to look at EU membership, as it is at the moment, which many don’t believe to be so bad. In reality though, the level of membership doesn’t stay the same. Britain has signed up to an ” ever closer union” with the EU incorporated in the Maastricht treaty.

    Glenis Wilmott is more concerned about her job than telling her constituents about the meaning of that clause.

    Ultimately the “ever closer union” clause means if the EU has double digit levels of unemployment so will Britain. If the EU sets a rule requiring economic austerity then Britain will have economic austerity EU style. If anyone thinks monetarist policies were bad under Thatcher they’ll be twice as bad under the Troika of the ECB, the EU commission, and the IMF. Thatcher would seem a spendthrift Keynesian by comparison.

    Keeping out of the Euro was a good move. I personally would never vote for anyone who was ever in favour of joining the Euro, even if they have changed their tune in recent years. But, that wasn’t enough to prevent the UK being gradually stripped of its powers of self determination.

    Sooner or later the UK government will be told to adopt the Euro. There’ll be no dissent allowed.

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