Socialist Worker

Trade unions’ Brexit mistake

Issue No. 2569

Unite union leader Len McCluskey

Unite union leader Len McCluskey (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The leader of Britain’s biggest union has praised Labour’s call for Britain to stay in the European single market. 

Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey said, “Workers will be relieved that one party has got their backs.”

He claimed that the single market is “vital to secure tens of thousands of jobs”.

This echoes a TUC statement in June, which said leaving the single market “risks people’s jobs and hard-won rights at work”.

It’s a bit rich for union leaders who have largely failed to lead resistance to Tory austerity to talk about the need to defend jobs.

But in any case, the single market doesn’t defend workers. It was set up to protect the bosses.


The union leaders’ position reflects the idea that we must keep bosses happy to protect workers.

But bosses and workers do not have the same interests. When workers are encouraged to make sacrifices in order to stave off other attacks, it only emboldens the bosses to impose more.

Since the financial crisis of 2008, banks and bosses have pocketed billions in state aid. But the vast majority have suffered stagnant living standards.

Key public services have been savaged while profits have been preserved.

Instead of cosying up to the pro-business single market, the unions should lead a serious fight against the bosses and the Tories.

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