This week, Labour launched its campaign for Britain to remain part of the EU, ahead of the referendum on our membership. The Party is in favour of being in the European Union as we believe it is in the best interests of our country as a whole, and of working people in particular, through both the jobs it brings and the rights we enjoy.
EU membership helps the UK create jobs, growth, and investment. The EU accounts for a majority of our trade, millions of jobs are dependent on our membership, and, on average, each family is £3,000 a year better off as a result of us being in the EU.
Many of our most important rights at work come from our being in the EU, like a minimum four weeks’ paid holiday; a right to parental leave; extended maternity leave; a new right to request flexible working; and the same protection for part-time workers as full-time workers. Does anyone honestly believe that if we left the EU, the Tories would protect those rights?
Our membership of the EU not only enables us to benefit from these major employment rights, but it opens the door to allow us to extend them, even during a period of Conservative government. For example, we are working to enhance the rights of workers in insecure employment, like zero-hours contracts.
Labour MEPs have been leading efforts in the European Parliament for action to combat zero-hour contracts, bogus (false) self-employment, subcontracted and outsourced work, and undeclared, informal and irregular work, and are pushing to stop the undercutting of terms and conditions and the exploitation of migrant workers.
In Britain, five million people are in low paid jobs. Labour MEPs think it is unacceptable that some workers do not know how much they will get from week to week, and that is why we are working to end exploitative zero-hours contracts across the EU.
And last week, while Labour MEPs were pushing for a new EU strategy to cut the number of work-related deaths and cases of illness and injury, the Tories voted against. In the UK in the last year, 142 workers were killed at work, 611,000 injuries occurred, and there were 500,000 new cases of ill health brought on by work.
If we were to leave the EU, the Tories would be free to abolish or weaken health and safety legislation, including measures that save lives. The dominant voices behind the campaign to quit the EU want to see free markets without the EU social protections that help prevent a race to the bottom in working standards.
Quitting the EU would put Britain's economy at risk, imperilling the prosperity of working people, with present and future jobs that are a result of being in the EU under threat, as well as the workplace rights enshrined by our membership, rights the Tories could do away with in an instant.
We are now facing the biggest political decision of a generation. The decisions we make now will determine whether or not our children face a future of solidarity, fairness and prosperity or one of deep uncertainty and cold isolation.
Working people need the rights and protections our EU membership gives us. Yes, it may not be perfect, and yes, it needs reform, but only by being members of the European Union, by being strong, active participants, can we improve the lives of working people not just in Britain but across Europe.
Imagine the Tories in charge of a Britain outside the EU. How many of our employment rights would still exist? Would people be protected at work? Will most working people even have a job? No, no, and no. The European Union helps ensure there is a social element to open markets - increased trade boosts jobs but the social element ensures workers are protected.
We are in the Labour Party because we are a party that acts in the interests of working people, and it is demonstrably in the interests of working people that Britain remains in the European Union. And that is why we are leading the campaign to keep us in the EU.