Unite general secretary Len McCluskey meets with Suffolk members as part of re-election bid
17:46 09 February 2017
The leader of Britain’s biggest trade union says that continued access to the European Union single market is not incompatible with greater control over migrant labour.
Speaking during a visit to East Anglia, Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said that post-Brexit access to the single market was vital in order to protect UK jobs and investment.
But he insisted that concerns over migrant workers could also be addressed, if businesses wishing to bring in labour from elsewhere were required to work more closely with unions.
“We want to make sure that Brexit does not damage investment and threaten jobs,” said Mr McCluskey. “Many people here in East Anglia voted to be out of Europe, and we respect that, but they didn’t vote to be out of work.”
He continued: “We believe that it is necessary still to have access to the single market but we also believe you can have access to the single market and still control the inflow of migrant labour.”
Companies wishing to bring in migrant workers should be required to secure agreements with their unions, he said, which would have the effect of controlling numbers while also preventing a “race to the bottom” in terms of pay and conditions.
“When we work with businesses, everyone benefits,” said Mr McCluskey. “We want employers to be successful and profitable but we expect the workforce to share in those benefits.
“We think Theresa May has got it wrong in terms of dismissing the need for access to the single market so as to achieve greater control of the border. We think you can do both.”
He added that, with a number of employer organisations also concerned over the terms of Brexit, he was confident that the Government would have to engage with industry as the negotiation process unfolded.
Mr McCluskey, who has been general secretary of Unite since 2010, was speaking at the union’s district office in Ipswich ahead of visits to Sizewell B power station and the Port of Felixstowe to meet with members as part of his campaign to secure a third term in the role.
Nominations close on February 17, with Gerard Coyne and Ian Allinson also having signalled their intention to stand. Voting starts on March 27 with the result due on April 22.