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SHADOW chancellor John McDonnell delivered a bold and confident speech to yesterday’s TUC Congress.
He outlined the superstructure of workers’ rights that a Labour government would seek to extend and strengthen.
His proposals included full and equal rights for all workers from day one, reform of public-sector procurement terms, an end to PFI and zero-hours contracts and the repeal of anti-union laws.
Millions of low-paid, temporary, part-time and casual workers can draw hope and inspiration from this programme of far-reaching reforms.
Of course, everything will be done by big business, the Tories and sections of the mass media to persuade them otherwise.
Giving more rights to employees will be portrayed as a potential disaster for the economy, jobs and living standards.
Something similar happened in the 1980s and ’90s, when proposals for a national minimum wage were attacked on the grounds that thousands of companies would go bankrupt and a million workers would be priced out of a job.
This makes it all the more important that the trade unions and Labour MPs do all in their power to publicise, explain and support McDonnell’s programme for workers’ rights as widely as possible.
Some unions and MPs were quick to tweet on Tuesday night after McDonnell’s speech in Manchester.
Unfortunately, this was not to promote his plans but to recycle the latest warning from Jaguar Cars that its plants might close the day after Brexit.
It’s not the first such warning from this company’s bosses. They are becoming a monthly event, although Jaguar’s profits have been piling up since the EU referendum result in June 2016.
Fifteen years ago, we had the same scare stories about Jaguar and other car companies whose exports would supposedly collapse if Britain didn’t adopt the euro.
Nearly four-fifths of Jaguar's exports go to countries outside the EU. New opportunities for Britain to promote exports after Brexit could prove beneficial for companies willing to seize them instead of peddling the same old doom and gloom.
The similarities between the daily diet of anti-Brexit and anti-Labour stories in large sections of the mass media are not entirely coincidental.
They are motivated by the same ruling class concern, namely, that the people of Britain might elect a left-led Labour government that would be free from the constraints of EU treaties, rules and directives to pursue left and progressive policies.
That’s why so much is being done to soften up public opinion for a so-called “soft” Brexit. In reality, this would be a bogus Brexit to maintain much of Britain’s alignment with the EU single market and customs union.
All those TUC delegates who applauded the shadow chancellor’s offer so enthusiastically should be under no illusion. Such alignment would prohibit implementation of many of the Labour policies they so rightly desire.
For instance, EU single market rules are strict about what can and cannot be stipulated in public-sector procurement contracts.
Freedom for big business to compete for work, to establish operations anywhere in the single market and to employ so-called “posted workers” on inferior terms and conditions is paramount for the EU and its Court of Justice.
McDonnell’s plan to boost public-sector investment through “people’s quantitative easing” is expressly forbidden by EU treaty.
That’s why the unions and other delegates to the Labour Party conference must reject the siren voices for a misnamed “People’s Vote” to keep Britain in the EU and its single market.
If we want Labour to form a people’s government, there needs to be a people’s Brexit.
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