Unison: We will fight to remain in an imperfect Europe – and build a better union

14th April, 2016 9:04 am

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The EU isn’t a perfect institution. If you were designing it from scratch today you certainly wouldn’t construct it in the same way.

From the imposition of painful austerity in many European countries – most notably Greece – to its confusing series of inter-locking institutions, this is not a union without problems.

How it works and where decisions are made within it is far too unclear – largely thanks to a serious democratic deficit. And it has an obsession with a free market that benefits the wealthy over the needs of all citizens and the public services they rely on.

And yet – despite all of that – I’ll be voting for Britain to remain in Europe, and my union UNISON will be encouraging our members to vote Remain. Because another – better – Europe is possible.

A vote to remain in the EU on June 23 is not a vote for the status quo – it’s a vote to stay in Europe and fight to change it for the better.

Trade unionists know that you don’t get what’s best for the collective by walking away. You don’t win for your members by abandoning the debate. And you don’t achieve real solidarity by going it alone.

What Europe has achieved and defends for working people is a vast array of rights that provide protection in work and elsewhere. Whether it’s maternity leave, paternity leave, guaranteed paid holiday, proper breaks at work or equal rights for part-time workers, tens of millions of British workers have a lot to lose by exiting the EU.

The Government’s campaign is largely about free market Europe. But that flawed model has only ever been part of the Europe we’re all part of. A social Europe – underpinning the rights and freedoms we rely on but often take for granted – is crucial for trade unionists and for trade unions.

Outside of Europe we’d be at the whim of the government of the day.

The European Union is undoubtedly imperfect, but it is a union we are stronger as part of, one we can help shape together and one that provides us with crucial protections. As Trade

Unionists we must do what we do best – stand and fight for a better deal. A Europe that is democratic, open and accountable. A Europe that protects its citizens not only from unscrupulous bosses but also protects their services from the ravages of privatisation. And a Europe that values rights at work, not just those of big businesses.

We’re fighting to stay in Europe, not just because of what it is today, but because of what it can be in future. A better Europe.

Liz Snape is President of the TUC and Assistant General Secretary of UNISON

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