General Secretary On UKIP

29 Oct 2014

“Morning Star” - 29/10/14


Paul Kenny warns that many of Ukip’s supporters would actually be far worse off under its policies


“The long-delayed recovery has a long way to go, with GDP per head still 3 per cent below 2007 and pay 14 per cent down on pre-recession levels. It is hardly surprising that voters angry at this prolonged recession are protesting at the ballot box. Our polling shows that many Ukip voters are white, male, over 40, working in the private sector and many used to vote Labour. Their key concerns are wages, job security and housing.


But Ukip policies would make things worse for them. Ukip would have NHS services run by private companies for profit. Roger Helmer MEP supported views that the NHS was a “60-year mistake.” Nigel Farage claims to be the only politician “keeping the flame of Thatcherism alive.” Ukip would give millionaires a bigger tax cut than the Tories. Its 2010 election manifesto committed to drastically reducing the size of the public sector and getting rid of two million jobs.


Ukip would get rid of workers’ legal rights on weekly working hours, overtime, redundancy, sick pay, pensions and employers’ national insurance obligations. Ukip would scrap the legal right to four weeks’ paid holiday. Ukip would not give apprentices the minimum wage. It would scrap all health and safety legislation except in the most dangerous of workplaces. Ukip wants to limit which employment claims can be brought to tribunal.


Ukip MEPs voted against EU Parliament measures that would help workers facing mass redundancies and better health and safety and conditions for airport baggage handlers and offshore oil and gas workers. Last year, Ukip MEPs in the EU Parliament refused to vote for equal pay for women. Ukip would scrap the right to maternity leave and would cut weekly maternity pay by more than half. Farage has stated that women are “worth less” to their employers after coming back from maternity leave and that EU proposals for better and longer maternity leave constitute “excessive regulation” and are a “ruinous exercise.”


Farage failed to turn up to vote to strengthen the EU Posted Workers Directive to stop exploitation of migrant workers and did nothing to strengthen control measures to prevent the simultaneous undercutting of terms and conditions for domestic workers. His MEPs there abstained. He could have acted. He didn’t. The 2013 Ukip Congress voted to proscribe Hope Not Hate, labelling Britain’s largest anti-racist organisation as “extremist.”


Ukip MEPs have refused to support EU action for greater financial transparency, banking reform and against tax evasion, avoidance and fraud. Farage being a former City commodities trader himself, this probably shouldn’t surprise us. Many Ukip MEPs are climate change deniers and have weakened EU environmental legislation, hindering Europe’s transition to an energy-efficient and low-carbon economy. Ukip has tapped into concerns over more fundamental problems about Europe that we have to face up to. Whatever the European vision was on integration, harmony, economic advancement and political stability, what we currently have isn’t it.


The free movement of labour and the single market were to be balanced by the social charter where all the people of Europe would live in freedom and with those in the poorer economies, benefitting from the harmonisation of standards across all member states. There were to be standards on workers’ protection, Tupe, excessive hours, health and safety, information and consultation and so many others that were meant to keep labour exploitation in check. That dream has been chipped away at for years. Right-wing governments and employers have engineered massive change in the direction of the EU vision.


Judgements in the European Courts like Viking and Laval were the green light to massive assaults on organised labour across Europe, but especially in Britain. From Lindsey oil refinery to food production, we have seen workers recruited in certain member states by agencies and exploited. They were shipped in, literally, in order to undermine the terms and conditions of existing workers on those contracts. Both sets of workers have been let down by Westminster government, the EU Commission and the European Court.


On exploitation, we shouldn’t blame the exploited — we should damn those who exploit. And yet the exact opposite has been occurring up and down the country over recent years. And that is part of the discontent that Ukip turns into xenophobic rhetoric to win votes. Look past the simplistic tag and face the challenge of exploitation. Let’s reach out to those migrant workers, not attack them but organise and protect them.


Too many workers go to work fearful about exercising their basic rights. A new Labour government working with the EU has to create a workplace without fear and equip the trade unions to enforce it. The challenge for Labour in government is to deal with exploitation and harassment of workers who it has ignored for too long. Collective rights are the key to unlock that challenge. Take away our shackles and we will show you what enforcement is all about.


Paul Kenny is general secretary of GMB.