One of the leaders of the trade union movement in Britain has warned Derry workers must not be the ones bearing the brunt of Brexit and urged local politicians to negotiate a stable Executive to ensure the North has a future.
Mary Bousted, President of the of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), which represents more than 5.6 million workers across 50 unions in Britain, was in Derry on Wednesday as guest of Derry Trades Council.
Local trade unionists briefed Ms. Bousted on the unique challenges facing the North West, including Brexit, political instability, and the decline of manufacturing.
Addressing the impending United Kingdom withdrawal from the European Union, Ms. Bousted said: “Our strongest message is that workers must not pay the price of Brexit.
“All the protections that the EU gave us around working time directives, around paternity leave, maternity leave, around health and safety at work, all those protections we want retained.”
She continued: “Workers must not pay the price, in terms of poor jobs, insecure work, poverty pay, low skills and low rates of employment.”
The TUC leader also said that, in terms of the ongoing impasse at Stormont. it was her view that government is better than no government,
“I think it’s much better if Northern Ireland is able to run its own affairs within the devolved government and we want a system that works but we want a system that works in Northern Ireland for working people.
“The issues for Northern Ireland are like the issues for England but with knobs on: the dangers of low-skilled [jobs], high unemployment, low productivity, over-dependence on the public sector. These are all real issues for the devolved assembly.
“My advice to the politicians would be to deal with those issues because those are the issues that are going to affect whether Northern Ireland actually has a future and not other issues that can be huge distractions.”
Ms. Bousted, is also General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), which is among several teaching unions currently in dispute with the managing authorities over pay and terms and conditions in the North.
She said she was fully supportive of the local teachers’ campaign.
“One of the most important things I’ve done on this trip is speak to teachers involved in that action.
“I think it’s highly impressive and I want to take the lessons from Northern Ireland back to England,” she said.
Member of her own union, the ATL, have been refusing to engage with the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI), as part of their fight for a pay incease on a par with their colleagues in England and Wales.
“What you’ve basically got here is teachers in different schools deciding what action they want to take, what work they are doing, which adds no value to teaching and learning but which is putting hours and hours on their working week,” said Ms. Bousted.