Sunday, 4 May 2014

Why the TUC arguments for EU membership are wrong

Frances Grady, the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, seems to have taken notice of the EU's announcement that it is a crime to to criticize the EU. Why else would she have made a sycophantic speech assuring TUC representatives that EU membership is good for you? 



The arguments she used are really very weak indeed. She claimed that "paid holidays and other workplace rights are some of the best arguments for EU membership. Leaving the EU would be disastrous for jobs and investment. " What jobs? What investment?
Right across the EU region, poverty, unemployment and economic slump are spreading. In Bulgaria last month, several people burnt themselves alive to protest at high fuel prices and the rocketing cost of living. In Spain and France there have been demonstrations. In Greece, the country is emptying of people as all able-bodied adults flee. Yes, in the UK there are some jobs created by EU subsidies  - but those subsidies come out of our taxes. Grady seems to think we are getting something for nothing.
Here in Britain the EU has certainly not brought a workers' paradise, instead it has brought millions of non-unionized, non-registered workers into the country, who undercut the wages of others. Healthy competition? Easy to say if your job is protected from competition, as the cushy jobs of MEPs and  MPs are. Nobody can undercut their salaries  - in fact they have awarded themselves large increases and bigger pensions. Meanwhile, for the army of the workers, cheap migrant labour is often combined with schemes whereby the employers house the incoming labour force in accommodation owned by the company, so that they pocket the housing benefit claimed by the workers. In effect, they may be getting the labour free or nearly free.
Millions of people in this country are working for the minimum wage or far less, and some in terrible conditions. Earnings have dropped in real terms, Ms Grady. There are cases of slavery and human trafficking found all the time. Approximately £1.4 million people are forced to accept "zero-hours" contracts so they are off the statistics of unemployment  - but unable to earn a realistic amount to live on. When Grady speaks with horror of a future "stripped of rights at work"  - what does she think has  happened already?
Meanwhile the EU offers large investment yes, for companies that want to move out of Britain and set up somewhere else where the overheads are halved. Businesses are moving to Poland, Romania or even Turkey as EU grants go way beyond the boundaries of the EU itself. 
Britain had its own employment laws long before the EU started nosing into this aspect of society and the unions played a leading role in getting contracts that included paid holidays and workplace rights. If we left the EU, there would be no reason at all not to implement our own laws if and when they were feasible. And yes, I think that some flexibility must be allowed. What if an employer in a small private company cannot afford to offer paid holidays, maternity leave or pension schemes? It may be better to leave them alone rather than just drive them out of business   - or out of this country.   If people wish to work for a small company that is not doing very well and taking economic risks - perhaps something like a theatre company where they enjoy working  - they should be free to waive their rights to a paid holiday if that means the company can actually stay in business. 
Frances Grady says "“Europe [meaning the EU, which is not actually Europe, only one way of running Europe] needs to win back popular support, replacing austerity with a People’s Plan for jobs-led growth and higher living standards. It needs to go back to its roots by balancing a dynamic economy with social protection and fair shares.” Unfortunately she does not suggest any remotely plausible strategy for achieving those unlikely aims. Dynamic economy? Bit of a bad joke.

The same fallacies are being touted around by the unscrupulous Catherine Bearder in her election leaflets. And here is a letter a friend of mine wrote to the Witney Gazette on the same subject:-
 
Sir, My letter of 2nd January addressed a New Labour leaflet in which I explained how taxpayers are paying for their own aid from the EU and that it was a highly inefficient way of financing local jobs.
 
Drew Carter in reply has failed to address this subject: that mass immigration is affecting the availability of local jobs (which the leaflet was complaining about) and driving down wages.
 
Does his dodging the issue and instead addressing a different topic mean that Mr Carter agrees that the leaflet showed an ignorance of the facts on ‘aid’ and the effect of mass immigration upon jobs?
 
As to 3.5 million jobs being dependent upon trade with the EU – so what? Does he think that all trade will cease if Britain were to leave the EU. Does he think that Germany would stop selling Mercedes to us; does he think that France would deprive us of Beaujolais? Of course not, trade will continue as before and jobs would not be lost.
 
I should be delighted to learn Mr Drew’s view on the issues I raised on the New Labour leaflet.
  
D---- B-----
 
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/04/30/zero-hours-contracts-double-estimates-brits_n_5238088.html

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/apr/30/zero-hours-contracts-uk-over-one-million-people

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/news/article-2616675/Most-zero-hours-contract-workers-earn-living-wage.html

https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/1-4-million-workers-zero-091830100.html

http://www.tuc.org.uk/economic-issues/international-issues/europe/economic-developments/leaving-eu-would-be-disastrous

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