As the EU withdrawal Bill goes through, UNISON is calling for an open, transparent and democratic process that also considers the particular issues faced by the regions in the devolved administrations.
UNISON will campaign for a new EU deal fit for workers, informing and engaging members and the public on the potential impact of the EU withdrawal proposals.
It will work with trade union bodies, politicians, other organisations and civic alliances which campaign on a raft of issues and rights including the protection of public services, employment rights, and human rights.
Kate Ramsden, Scotland NEC member, supported an amendment that called for maintaining in full the free movement of people between the UK and the EU, to work, study and to live with their partners and families.
Kate said: “UNISON has a proud record of supporting fair and just migration.
“Our position on Exiting the EU clearly states that regardless of what Brexit deal we get, we will support the hard won rights of EU workers to move freely with goods, money and services.”
Kate explained that the situation in Northern Ireland shows how important it is to our 40,000 union members that we support the free movement of people and the cross border provision of public services and that UNISON members and their families rely on the ability to move freely between the North and South of Ireland, for work, study or family reasons. It is estimated that 20,000 people regularly cross the border.
Kate highlighted that various health and social care services in border areas are provided on a shared basis between the two countries, including the pooling of financial resources, shared staffing and common standards.
Care and Health need our EU members
She warned about the negative impact of a Brexit deal which restricts free movement – not only on the ability of the next generation of our members to work cross border in Ireland but most worryingly on the Good Friday agreement, not to mention the 75,000 EU members, who have been living in limbo and uncertainty for nearly two years.
Kate underlined UNISON’s commitment to support Freedom of Movement: “We have lobbied for their rights to be upheld when we leave the EU in the Withdrawal Agreement.
“And we have worked with the Cavendish coalition to make sure that the government understand how much we value and need the contributions of EU workers in our care and health services.”
She pointed out that UNISON has told the government that we can’t afford a labour shortage in these services, particularly when the vacancy rate is so high.
“At least 170,000 EU nationals currently work in UK health and social care settings and it’s predicted that there will be shortages as EU migrants leave with no UK labour workforce to replace them.”
Kate slammed those blaming immigrants for our financial crisis.
“Austerity, falling wages and falling living standards for UK workers is NOT the fault of EU migrants or any other immigrants in the UK. We will not allow them to be scapegoated.
“They were caused by the banking crisis and the UK government’s disastrous attempts to deal with it.”
Kate concluded: “So there is no need to remove Freedom of Movement. In fact it will be a disaster.
“So we must continue to campaign for Freedom of Movement alongside an easy and accessible new migration system that will retain the existing EU workforce.
“Their rights must be confirmed unilaterally from the withdrawal agreement to ensure certainty and security for them and their families And there must be NO extension of the so called ‘hostile environment’ that non EU migrants face”