A union representing Uber and Deliveroo drivers is pushing for a fresh referendum on Theresa May’s final Brexit deal. It claims workers’ rights could be at risk without the input of EU law and has stated their support of the People’s Vote campaign.
The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) supports workers in the so-called gig economy, contractors and migrant workers. It confirmed last week that its executive committee has passed a motion in support of People’s Vote, brought about by concerns for the treatment of gig workers and contractors should EU employment law be eradicated.
IWGB added that if a vote is impossible, it wants to see a Brexit which ensures the UK remains a member of the single market, with EU employment law protections.
‘As precarious workers, we have had to fight tooth and nail to win even the most basic rights and dignity at work,’ IWGB president Henry Chango Lopez said. ‘Losing EU employment law protections would mean we lose a vital weapon in our arsenal against the potential for exploitation.’
IWGB highlighted three areas in particular which it said need protecting:
EU employment law rights
EU law is responsible for introducing employment rights to the UK, including guaranteed holiday pay and protection from discrimination. IWGB said EU courts have been much more favourable to workers in their interpretation of the law than UK courts.
A recent decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which has done away with restrictions on backdated holiday pay claims put in place by the coalition government, allowed the union to pursue important cases. IWGB brought class action suits against gig economy employers for over a million pounds in unpaid holiday pay.
The IWGB is a union with a high proportion of migrant workers, which it says have benefited from free movement of people.
IWGB said it is vital to its members that the UK avoids any economic shock that would come from a hard Brexit. “We know from previous experience that these kinds of economic shocks hit gig workers and contractors disproportionately,” the union explained. Their concerns aren’t isolated either; many other unions share similar worries.
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association is a trade union for UK workers in the transport and travel industries that has also given warnings about the negative impact a hard Brexit would have on gig workers and contractors. ‘Workers involved in the gig economy are involved in struggles which are positively driving up wages for all,’ TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said. It believes Brexit will damage workers’ rights and drive down wages after years of fighting to raise the living wage.
How far will the effects of a bad Brexit deal reach?
While those considered ‘bottom of the pile’ will no doubt feel the brunt of a bad Brexit deal, contractors and freelancers in all income brackets will most likley feel some impact.
From the 27 workers let go from the National Gallery without consultation or benefits – some of whom had worked there for decades – to HMRC’s Loan Charge that’s seeing thousands of individuals receiving enormous tax bills dating back as far as 1999, contractors are trying to earn a living in an uneasy climate. If IWGB’s concerns are valid, a bad Brexit deal could spell disaster for many.