The Risks of Leaving the EU Are Far Greater to Working People Than Staying In

01/06/2016 10:11 | Updated 01 June 2016
JUSTIN TALLIS via Getty Images

I'm not surprised that people are getting a bit bored of the referendum campaign. I can't be the only one who is tired of what seems to be an argument held exclusively between rich men in suits.

But even if the campaign is failing to inspire you, the issues at stake are very real.

The TUC is launching a report today looking at the financial impact of Brexit on British workers. We've looked at how the economy would suffer if we left the EU, and judged that the average worker could be worse off by around £38 a week.

Let's put that into perspective. That's a tank of petrol for a small car, a day out with the kids, or a big chunk of the weekly shop.

Now that may not be much for politicians like Boris Johnson - a man who described his £250,000 fee for a weekly newspaper column as "chicken feed". But for millions of workers it matters a lot.

No report can predict the future with 100% accuracy, but study after study have reached the same conclusion: our economy would be seriously damaged by leaving the EU, and workers' pay packets would suffer.

It's not just wages. Leaving the EU threatens decent jobs across the UK as well.

Launching the report today, I'll by joined by workers from BMW's car plant in Cowley. They worry, like many in the car industry, that if we leave the EU, companies will relocate to mainland Europe, taking thousands of jobs with them.

Those on the shop floor in Cowley also know the importance of the EU when it comes to rights at work. Agency workers at his plant used to earn 20% less than permanent workers. But when the EU Agency Workers Directive came in, they were given the same pay and conditions as their permanent colleagues.

This is the difference EU laws make to our workplace. Maternity rights, more paid holidays, better health and safety and so on - these are all guaranteed by the EU.

If we come out of Europe, I wouldn't trust the government to protect our rights. To many Brexiteers, social and employment protections are just red tape.

The EU is far from perfect. I haven't been afraid to criticise it before, and I won't hesitate in the future. But on balance, the risks of leaving are far greater to working people than staying in.

We need to build on the protections we have, not gamble them away.

Frances O'Grady is the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC)