The result of the EU referendum on 23 June is on a knife edge. Given that the polls suggest a very close result and UNISON’s strongly held view that members will be better off if the UK remains part of the EU, we have been writing to members to try and boost voter turn-out.
All the evidence suggests that the lower the turnout on the day, the greater the risk of the UK leaving the EU. We know all members will weigh the arguments very carefully before voting on 23 June and that we respect their views completely.
UNISON’s role is to look out for members’ jobs and do everything we can to defend and where possible enhance their pay and standard of living. We will continue to do this regardless of the outcome of the referendum. In fulfilling our role, we have tried to assess the evidence and arguments on both sides of the EU referendum debate – and let members know what we think the impact will be on jobs, public services, employment rights if the UK leaves.
UNISON did not enter onto this position lightly, or in an undemocratic way. The union held an extensive six-week consultation across the entire UK earlier in the year. All branches were invited to take part and send in responses to help shape our approach to the referendum. This process showed overwhelming support for the union campaigning for a remain position.
UNISON is not an uncritical supporter of the EU. The union’s position is that we are better off if we remain and seek to improve the EU from within. In the final analysis we are backing Remain for the following reasons:
- The regulations we rely on to protect members at work are enshrined in EU law and upheld by the European Court of Justice. Leaving would mean that critical rights – such as paid holiday, fair working hours, equal rights for part-time workers and maternity and paternity leave – are no longer guaranteed. The politicians that are likely to lead the country if we leave the EU are no friends of rights at work.
- Leaving the EU would put the standard of living of our members at risk. Uncertainty is bad for any economy because it reduces investment and damages consumer confidence. The uncertainty of leaving the EU would hit all of us financially, driving up interest and mortgage rates, increasing prices and threatening jobs.
- Leaving the EU would threaten public services. As the recent past has shown, a weaker economy leads to reduced government spending on everything from local government to the NHS, and policing to education. With the public sector already struggling to keep its head above water, we feel this is the wrong time to take that risk.