“The NEC of SIPTU is deeply concerned at the economic, political and social implications for workers in Ireland, including the 200,000 members of our union, of a ‘no deal’, hard or disorganised Brexit. It has been evident for the past two years that tens of thousands of workers and their families in the Republic of Ireland, particularly those in employments which supply produce to the UK market, will suffer if Britain leaves the European Union. Those working in border counties who travel into or from Northern Ireland to their employments will also endure costly delays and disruption to their lives. Workers in Northern Ireland who are in employments which trade across the border will also potentially face the loss of their jobs and incomes if a no-deal Brexit occurs.
“In the event of a hard or disorganised Brexit, which looms closer as the British government and parliament fail to agree an alternative agreement with the European Union, the jobs and livelihoods of huge numbers of workers in Ireland are at risk. A hard Brexit will immediately have an impact on economic stability and growth while the damage to the agri-food, meat processing, cereal and dairy sectors, and in other manufacturing and services, where tens of thousands of SIPTU members are employed, could result in job losses, through lay-offs and redundancies, across the country. The prospect of transport delays and interruptions in the supply of goods and materials will also cause serious disruption to businesses, hauliers and other workers if customs checks come into force. The latest proposals by the British government for heavy tariffs on meat, dairy and other food imports from the EU pose a significant and immediate threat to workers involved in processing and distributing these products.
“As a union which represents workers across the entire island of Ireland, we are also acutely aware of the political effects of an unruly Brexit on the carefully constructed peace process which emerged from the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The prospect of any type of border infrastructure between NI and the Republic will undoubtedly generate a hostile response from local communities which have enjoyed over twenty years of frictionless movement, trade and community relations across both jurisdictions. It is worth recalling that 56% of voters in Northern Ireland opposed Brexit while the overwhelming majority of people in the Republic support membership of the EU.
“The social effects of a disorganised Brexit on workers are equally disturbing with clear indications that many of those politicians, business people and others in the UK advocating a ‘no-deal’ Brexit favour an employment environment where the protections for workers and the environment enjoyed by workers across the EU are weakened and where low cost and lower quality goods and produce can be purchased from non-EU sources. SIPTU members and other trade unions will fight against any attempts to diminish labour standards North or South of the border.
“SIPTU supports the call by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for urgent action by the Government, in conjunction with the EU institutions, to protect vulnerable workers from job losses. These include implementing measures to support companies to keep workers in employment, such as Short-Term Work Scheme, providing working capital to assist businesses with serious cash flow difficulties, introducing a Brexit adjustment Assistance Fund to re-train and upskill workers and revising the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund to support workers made redundant because of Brexit. Following the financial collapse a decade ago, the banks were provided with extensive guarantees by the Government and the ECB. With a ‘no deal’ or disorganised Brexit now a real possibility, workers in Ireland are entitled to similar protection.”