Top AFL-CIO staffer says Johnson’s Brexit pact bad for U.K. and U.S. workers
President Donald Trump, left, and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, Aug. 25, 2019. | Andrew Harnik / AP

WASHINGTON (PAI)—British Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new “Brexit” deal, taking the United Kingdom out of the 28-nation European Union, is bad for workers in both the U.K. and the U.S., a top AFL-CIO staffer says. But the pact may sink.

That’s because, adds Damon Silvers, Brexit robs British workers of rights they regained under the EU, after former Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher took them away. And, says Silvers, the corporate interests that funded the Brexit campaign, plus Johnson, want to follow Brexit with a NAFTA-like “free trade” pact between Britain and GOP President Donald Trump.

The original NAFTA, which Trump is trying to supersede with a new pact, calls for worker rights, but has no way to enforce them. That, plus Mexican low pay and worker repression, led corporations to move at least 700,000 U.S. jobs south. Labor strongly opposed NAFTA when President Bill Clinton pushed it through Congress a quarter-century ago.

Silvers, who just finished months on a special fellowship in the U.K. at the height of the Brexit fracas, explained the scenario in an Oct. 17 radio interview with Chris Garlock of the Washington-Baltimore News Guild on WPFW-FM’s weekly Your Rights At Work program.

British unions are also sounding the alarm about Johnson’s Brexit. When he unveiled the new deal on Oct. 17 in the U.K. (Oct. 16 in the U.S.), Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the British Trades Union Congress, retorted: “This deal would be a disaster for working people. It would hammer the economy, cost jobs, and sell workers’ rights down the river.”

“Boris Johnson has negotiated an even worse deal than” former Tory Prime Minister “Theresa May. All MPs should vote against it,” O’Grady said of the new Brexit. May was forced to resign earlier this year when Parliament voted down all three of her Brexit proposals.

Damon Silvers of the AFL-CIO. | Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service

Parliament may also trash Johnson’s deal with the EU. Johnson called a Saturday session of the House of Commons for Oct. 19, to vote on his Brexit pact, but the body voted to withhold approval until Johnson has formulated and submitted all the enabling legislation covering details of the agreement.

“Even the pro-Brexit members of the Labour Party” in Parliament “may vote against it because the labor provisions” in Johnson’s Brexit agreement “are so bad,” Silvers says.

And Unite The Union, a British industrial union allied with the Steelworkers, has been running a “no deal, no way” campaign for months. If there’s no Brexit deal in place by Halloween, Great Britain crashes out of the European Union with apparently catastrophic consequences for workers, consumers, and its economy.

“This July, as Johnson became prime minister, Unite led a delegation of manufacturing members in a lobby of MPs from all parties. Unite members from British Steel, GKN, Rolls Royce, and Airbus spoke with one voice to tell the politicians a ‘no deal’ exit from the European Union would destroy our jobs and communities,” the union said in mid-October.

Unite Assistant General Secretary Steve Turner said: “They were correct to do so. We have around 500,000 members working in manufacturing in this country. From food production to aerospace, chemicals to car manufacturing, our members make an essential contribution to communities across the nation.

“These jobs matter. They provide wages to support families, skills to strengthen communities and bring balance to our economy away from London and the south-east. Without them, regional inequality will soar — and as we know, when manufacturing jobs are lost, they don’t come back. We now have under two weeks to stop a ruinous ‘no deal’ Brexit and the destruction it will bring to our workplaces and communities. Back Unite in preventing this.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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