SIR BRENDAN BARBER’S decision to join forces with David Cameron in a plea for Britain to stay in the EU is “appalling,” trade union leaders said yesterday.
Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said the former TUC chief had “let us all down” in co-writing a newspaper article with the Tory Prime Minister.
Sir Brendan, who now leads conciliation service Acas, intervened as a new campaign for a socialist withdrawal from the EU — or “Lexit” — was launched in London.
Sir Brendan linked up with Mr Cameron to tell Guardian readers that leaving the EU would “risk jobs, hold down wages and [make Britons] pay higher prices.” The new chums also unveiled a poster bearing a similar message in Peterborough.
“Whether it is the Bank of England, our universities, the trade unions, employers large and small in every part of our economy, the IMF, President Obama, our allies in Nato or the Commonwealth, the message is the same: Britain is better off in Europe,” they wrote.
But Mr Wrack, who is supporting a Remain vote, said: “Mr Cameron has launched the biggest attack on workers’ rights in a generation, including those made through the disgraceful Trade Union Bill.
“We are staggered that Sir Brendan Barber has lined up with him in this way. Nobody in the trade union movement can seriously believe that Cameron has the slightest interest in protecting workers’ rights.
“Workers have completely separate interests to those of Cameron and his backers in the banks and big corporations. Brendan Barber has let us all down.”
Probation union Napo’s general secretary Ian Lawrence called for the TUC to “publicly distance” itself from Mr Barber.
He also raised concerns about recent media speculation that unions had offered their support for the EU as part of a “deal” to water down new anti-union laws. He said “no real concessions” had been guaranteed. The TUC has said no deal has been made.
At the launch for the new #LEXIT campaign, rail union RMT member Alex Gordon said Britain’s EU membership made it “impossible for a future left government in Britain to engage in planning of trade and investment.”
Communist Party general secretary Rob Griffiths said the Tories would face a “massive crisis” following a vote to leave. “Any government that emerged would be so unstable that conditions would exist to bring it down years before 2020. The labour movement cannot afford to miss this opportunity.”
The campaign’s supporters also include the Indian Workers’ Association and Counterfire.