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Issue #1738      July 6, 2016

Silenced

Workers’ voices are being shut out of Britain’s post-EU future by the Tory Business Secretary. Sajid Javid called an emergency summit “to ensure that the negotiation of our future relationship with the EU is carried out in the interest of UK companies, investors, potential investors and workers.”

He invited the CBI bosses’ group and other big business lobbyists to last week’s economic summit but deliberately excluded the Trade Union Congress, which represents 5.8 million workers in 51 unions.

TUC officials told the Star they only learned of the meeting through weekend press reports. The union body immediately wrote to the minister pressing the case for its inclusion, arguing that talks about Britain’s future must include the broadest range of expertise and opinion.

Mr Javid’s office replied that the TUC’s attendance was “unwarranted.” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said it was “disappointing” that Tory ministers were refusing to work with the TUC to limit the impact of any economic downturn.

“At a time when the government should be looking to heal the wounds of a divisive campaign, this is a backward step,” she said. “Unions must be present to feed in the concerns of working people and to contribute to the development of a practical plan to protect British jobs and industry.

“Excluding the TUC and our member unions from this meeting is not acting in the national interest.”

The future of the steel industry was likely to have been top of Ms O’Grady’s agenda had she been allowed to attend. Steelworkers’ union Community has also demanded an urgent audience with Mr Javid.

General Secretary Roy Rickhuss said: “The EU referendum result and the government turmoil that has resulted have placed new question marks over Tata Steel’s sales process and the trade unions need to understand what actions government will take to safeguard the future of UK steelmaking.”

Mr Javid was due to speak to Ms O’Grady by phone after yesterday’s summit and a government spokesman promised unions would be consulted over the renegotiation.

The spokesman said: “Clearly unions have an important role to play in contributing to plans to protect British jobs and ensure Britain remains open for business.” But Tory ministers have a history of displaying their complete contempt for trade unions.

The Star revealed how the Tory minister met representatives of the CBI about the Trade Union Act a full month before bothering to consult the TUC. The Prime Minister has also refused to meet Ms O’Grady for more than a year since she first made the request.

It took him nine months to respond to a letter from the TUC leader about the Trade Union Act. Responding to the latest snub, Labour’s shadow minister for trade unions Ian Lavery warned the negotiation of Britain’s exit from the EU would be led “by the rich and for the rich.”

He said: “Javid’s refusal to engage with trade unions by shutting them out of meetings is proof that the Tory Party can’t be trusted to handle leave negotiations in the interests of working people.

“Trade unions must be involved at all levels in negotiating the exit to ensure that the already vulnerable do not bear the brunt of the cost of leaving the European Union.

“After the poisonous, divisive referendum campaign, ministers have a duty to act in the interests of the nation. The Tories are showing they are utterly incapable of doing so.”

Morning Star

Next article – “Shadow World” exposes global weapons industry

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