Maria Exall of the Communication Workers’ Union explains why unions must campaign for a vote to
At CWU conference (24-28 April) we voted overwhelmingly to campaign with other unions for a distinctive workers voice in the debate on the EU referendum.
This decision was not based on any defence of the indefensible about the EU but because a “remain vote” is in CWU members’ interests. The EU is in many ways a capitalist club with a neoliberal agenda, but so is this UK Conservative government. The EU certainly needs democratic reform so that our voice in the elections of our representatives to the European Parliament is more meaningful.
And there is no excuse for the failure of the EU and governments throughout Europe to deal humanely with the migrant crisis. Yet the best way to address all these issues is to remain and fight for a workers’ Europe. It is vital that trade unions take a positive stance for a remain vote on the basis of fighting for workers’ rights across the EU. Another Europe is possible. It is a real myth that it is the EU itself that is the main problem for workers in the UK. Our experience in the communications sector is that our problems with European legislation, the loopholes in European Directives on agency working which promote second-class terms and conditions in the telecoms sector, and the expansion of liberalisation in the post and telecoms sectors, were promoted by UK governments, not by the EU. The main barriers to future renationalisation of UK post and telecoms industry lie within our own national politics not that of the EU. In the communications sector, our employers are organised on a multinational basis.
They organise internationally and in the EU. To be effective as trade unionists we need to organise across Europe as well. Union members working for communications firms based in the UK also work in Europe. The CWU is already involved in the organisations for social dialogue in the sectors where we have members. The argument for a remain vote is that it allows the UK working class that possibility, of fighting back with the working class of other European countries against a neoliberal agenda. As we know capitalism creates its own grave diggers.
The response of UK trade unions must be to reach out and link up with workers’ organisations in Europe to create the biggest and strongest grave-diggers’ union possible. A leave vote will lead to chaos and reaction and give a massive boost to the proto-fascists in UKIP. It will distract working-class people in the UK from fighting our real enemies — the casual racist Boris Johnson or whoever takes over the Conservative Party if Cameron is forced to resign. A leave vote will also separate us from working with our real friends — workers and trade unions throughout Europe. We need to remember the basic socialist principle that workers of the world must unite.