Frances O'Grady - TUC General Secretary

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has warned that the next UK Government must put workplace rights “at the heart” of any Brexit deal with the European Union, or risk Britain becoming “a bargain basement economy”.

A new study published by the TUC last week warns that working people on low-incomes in both the UK and the EU are at risk from a erosion in workplace rights after Britain leaves the EU.

The report ‘Could a bad Brexit deal reduce workers’ rights across Europe?’, commissioned by the TUC from the Work Foundation, found that better labour standards can help attract foreign investment, helping to create a “race to the top” for high-pay high-productivity jobs.

But it warns of a real risk for those working in low-pay and low-productivity sectors if workplace rights are not protected after Brexit, leading to a “race to the bottom” in both Britain and the EU.

TUC says the Chancellor has threatened to change the UK to a deregulated tax haven if a post-Brexit deal with the EU is not reached, raising the risk that Britain may cut protections for people at work.

The report says that this would also lead to pressure on EU nations from multinationals to reduce working people’s rights in order to compete for low-skilled jobs.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “If we don’t put strong protections for working people at the heart of our deal with the EU, Britain could become a bargain basement economy.

“And this will worry the EU too, as it could drive damaging competition that increases inequality.

“We’ve already seen the emergence of a low-skill, low-productivity economy that leaves many people trapped in dead-end jobs.

“Scrapping workplace protections, or gradually falling behind our European neighbours, would increase this trend.

“The next government must get a deal with Europe that protects current rights, like paid holidays, equal pay, and fairness for agency workers.

“And it must guarantee a level playing field with the rest of Europe now and in the future, so working people in Britain don’t fall behind our European neighbours.”