Siemens Dialog
27.05.2024, 19:05 Uhr

Unions against "Brexit"

  • 09.06.2016
  • International

On 23 June 2016 the British will vote on whether their country should remain in the EU. After more than 40 years as a member of the EU, there is a lot at stake in this referendum. Unions and the Siemens Europe Committee support the movement to keep Great Britain in the EU.

(Wolfgang Tillmans /

Both politically and economically, a smaller European Union would have tangibly less weight in dealings with its partners around the world. Without Britain, with its excellent relations with the USA and other countries, the EU would have less influence. This would also undermine the importance of European values such as peace, freedom and democracy.

Other large countries might also consider leaving the EU. As individual states the countries would have hardly any weight on the international stage, and would not be able to realise their plans for good work (working conditions, participation), social security for all, high environmental standards, and peaceful and tolerant co-existence. The same would be true of a reduced EU.

In addition the EU’s economy would be expected to become weaker, since right now nobody can predict whether new trade barriers such as import duties, import and export restrictions, new standards, etc. will be introduced. Brexit would impact negatively on jobs in the countries of the European Union.

Britain and Germany are important trading and investment partners. When it comes to trade in goods Germany is Britain’s top trading partner, even coming before the USA. Britain is Germany’s third most important export market. More than 2,500 German firms have branches in the UK, employing around 370,000 people. This means that more than 1% of the British workforce are employed in branches of German companies. Furthermore, about 3,000 British companies are active in Germany.

As trade unions and employee representatives we focus on social rights. Membership of the European Union has brought many advantages for employees in the UK, and also to some extent in Germany, which result from the implementation of European Directives - such as the limitation of maximum weekly working hours, protection against discrimination, occupational health and safety, parental leave and maternity leave, and improved rights for part-time staff, agency staff and those on limited-term employment contracts.

The EU Directive on European works councils enables British employees and/or their trade union representatives to participate in these cross-border bodies. Without membership of the EU, our British colleagues would have no right to be involved in an EWC. The other EWC members would have no right to information and consultation concerning measures planned by the central management in Britain. That would exclude this major industrial country from European employee representation.

The trade unions in Germany and Europe will continue to require the support of their British colleagues to make urgently needed progress on social issues in Europe. With its 1.4 million members our British sister union Unite is the third largest member (after IG Metall and the IG BCE) in our European federation, the <link http: _blank external-link-new-window>industriAll European Trade Union. It is also the largest British trade union.

We have registered attacks on trade union and employee rights all over Europe – initially in the “crisis states” of Spain, Portugal and Greece, but now also in Finland, France and the UK. We can only act against this successfully if we all pull together.