EU referendum: Brexit will cost workers £38 a week in wages, says TUC

General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, calls for a change of tone in the EU debate to highlight the interests of working people

Charlie Cooper
Whitehall Correspondent
Wednesday 01 June 2016 00:03
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Frances O'Grady says the loss of income is ‘the difference between heating or eating, between struggling or saving, and between getting by or getting on’ for millions of British workers
Frances O'Grady says the loss of income is ‘the difference between heating or eating, between struggling or saving, and between getting by or getting on’ for millions of British workers

The Remain camp will seek to regain the initiative with the publication of a new report from the Trades Union Congress (TUC), setting out ‘the working people’s case’ for remaining in the EU.

The report warns that, according to projections of the economic impact of Brexit, average weekly wages could be £38 lower by 2030 if Britain votes to leave.

It also outlines how the manufacturing sector would be hit hardest by a Brexit vote, meaning that jobs outside of London and the South-east could be most at risk, widening inequalities between regions.

TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said that the referendum debate had been “dominated by business interests” and called for a change of tone to highlight the interests of working people.

“£38 a week may not be much for politicians such as Boris Johnson – a man who described his £250,000 fee for a weekly newspaper column as ‘chicken feed’,” she said. “But for millions of workers, it’s the difference between heating or eating, between struggling or saving, and between getting by or getting on.”

Highlighting EU support for “hundreds of thousands of high-pay, high-skill, high-productivity manufacturing jobs”, the TUC report warns that, with 50 per cent of British manufacturing exports going to the EU, Brexit would create “clear” risks for the sector.

The report also argues that EU membership protects workers’ rights including equal pay, maternity rights, tougher health and safety laws, stronger anti-discrimination protections, limits on working time, and guaranteed paid holidays.

Estimates of future wages used by the TUC in 2030 are underpinned by forecasts from a number of leading economic institutions of how GDP will be affected by Brexit. Wages will not fall by £38 by 2030, but will be £38 lower than they might have been under normal economic conditions.

Meanwhile, a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) predicts that Britain’s continued membership of the EU single market could create more than 100,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector by 2030, all of which would be put in jeopardy by a vote for Brexit.

John Longworth, former director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and chair of Vote Leave’s business council, said that jobs that did not yet exist could not be put at risk, and claimed businesses “up and down the country” were concerned about EU “red tape and regulations…constraining their ability to innovate and create jobs.”

Responding to the TUC report, Labour MP and chair of Vote Leave Gisela Stuart claimed the EU had been “a disaster for workers”.

“The head of the In campaign Lord Rose has himself said that workers will get a pay rise if we Vote Leave. And as the Bank of England has confirmed, uncontrolled immigration has played a key role in bringing down wages,” she said.

On Wednesday, the heads of three leading manufacturing firms – Siemens, Airbus and GKN – will warn that Brexit would put investment in the UK and job creation at risk.

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