Stability in Ireland under threat if workers’ rights ripped up, unions warn

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Unions are warning that stability in Ireland could be threatened if workers’ rights are “ripped up”.

The TUC and NIC-ICTU (Northern Ireland Committee in the Irish Congress of Trade Union) issued a joint statement ahead of the 25-year anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement on Monday as the Retained EU Law Bill makes its way through parliament.

The unions warned that under the Bill workplace rights such as holiday pay, rest breaks, health and safety rules and protections from discrimination will disappear from the end of this year unless ministers table new regulations to retain them.

The TUC and Northern Irish unions warned that if vital rights in Northern Ireland are ripped up, it would be in “direct breach” of the Government’s level playing field commitments from the EU-UK trade deal.

The unions called on the Government to ditch the retained EU Law Bill and protect jobs, workers’ rights and peace on the island of Ireland.

“This reckless Bill puts at risk vital workplace protections – like holiday pay, safe working hours and protection from discrimination.

“Not only is that bad for workers across Britain – it also threatens stability on the island of Ireland.

“If essential rights are torn up in Northern Ireland while stronger rights remain across the border, the British government will be in direct breach of its level playing field commitments.

“This risks provoking a trade war with the EU – that’s the last thing working people need in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.

“It’s time to ditch this reckless Bill. The Conservatives do not have a mandate to slash and burn people’s rights at work.”

Owen Reidy, ICTU general secretary, said: “The trade union movement in both jurisdictions, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, have used the east-west and north-south opportunities opened since 1998 to deepen our friendships and co-operation with the TUC, Wales TUC and Scottish TUC.

“We have liaised regularly on campaigns against austerity and anti-worker legislation, and we remember how the TUC were almost alone in GB in 2016 when they warned about the possible threat Brexit posed to the stability of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

“Sadly, many of those concerns were justified by subsequent events and policy choices made by the Tory government and the Retained EU Law Bill is a sour cherry on a stale cake.

“The best legacy we can leave the past 25 years since the agreement is to defend it, starting with defeating this irrational Bill.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “We’ve been very clear that any reforms will not come at the expense of the UK’s strong record on workers’ rights, having raised domestic standards over recent years to make them some of the highest in the world.

“The Retained EU Law Bill will not compromise the Good Friday Agreement, while still allowing us to seize the regulatory reform opportunities offered by Brexit.”

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