Democrat July 2000 (Number 45)
Labour Movement News
It is now clear that many of Britain's trade union leaders want to cast our country and our fortunes into the European superstate, regardless of the obvious consequences that this will have for Britain's workers, or the opinions of its members.
France's assumption of the European Union presidency has been met with a flurry of excitement from union leaders, giving the impression that the next six months will spell great advances for working people. The TUC has indulged in this sheer kidology by issuing a report on "Why the French are right," applauding France's record on working conditions compared to that in the United States.
This report continues to foster the myth that, somehow, the EU is some sort of haven for working people, where social concerns are paramount, as opposed to the United States, where the free market runs riot. What Congress House misses out is the simple fact that the myth certainly does not match the reality experienced by workers in Britain.
One group that have reason to be concerned about the EU are the Govan shipyard workers in Glasgow. Over 3,000 Govan jobs depend on the yard securing a government order for roll-on roll-off ferries.
You would think that there would be no problem then, the government would award the contract to Govan and everyone would be happy. Unfortunately this is not the reality of the New Europe so beloved by Messrs Monks, Lyons, Edmonds and Jackson.
EU law, which has such a free-market bias that it would make your average US tycoon blush, requires all civilian contracts (which the Govan contract is classified as) to be offered to tender across the EU, ensuring there is no chance of good old democratic intervention overcoming the forces of the free market.
Everything currently hangs in the balance for Govan, with a Hamburg yard, which employs cheap labour from Eastern Europe, a favourite for the deal. Perhaps our exalted leaders should look a bit more closely at the experiences of their own members before they rush to rash judgements on the European Union.
The recent conference of Britain's biggest union UNISON proves that at least some unions are prepared to take heed of the views of the overwhelming majority of the British people, and their own members. By rejecting the Euro UNISON has made a proud stand in defence of decent public services, and the future of democracy in this country. Hopefully UNISON's leaders will now put their money where their mouth is and oppose the Euro at the forthcoming TUC congress in Glasgow, rather than repeat the shameful behaviour of the UNISON delegation last year, when they refused to support the crucial anti-EMU motion, which could have steered the TUC back towards a correct line on the European Union.