Jeremy Corbyn – 2016 Speech at People’s History Museum


Below is the text of the speech made by Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, at the People’s History Museum in Manchester on 21 June 2016.

Thank you for being here today and for that introduction, Diane.

Thank you to Alan Johnson for all of your hard work and mileage you’ve put into the campaign, and to all colleagues: MPs, MEPs, councillors and activists who are determined to make our remain and reform position clear.

Kate Green is the shadow secretary of state for Women & Equalities and an excellent advocate for that cause.

But, as you will all know a few days ago we lost one of the great fighters for women and equalities in this country so I would ask you all to reflect for a moment on the life of Jo Cox.

It’s a pleasure to be here today at the People’s History Museum which chronicles the struggles of working people over generations.

There are now under 48 hours until polls open in the European referendum I am very clear, and Labour is very clear we are for staying in.

One of the major reasons for that is about jobs and workers’ rights.

So it is fitting that we are here today in this building which reflects the gains that working people, trade unions and the Labour Party have won.

Today we live in a globalised world. The battles we fight today as a labour movement are not confined by national borders.

Workers, capital, and corporations move across borders. That is a reality whether we vote to leave or remain.

But only by remaining and working together with our allies across Europe can we regulate those flows and improve things for working people here in Britain.

It was a Labour government that introduced the Equal Pay Act in 1970 following a courageous campaign by women trade unionists.

By it was only in 1984 that law was strengthened and extended in Europe to mean equal pay for equal work of equal value in line with the EU Directive.

There was no limit on working time for workers in Britain until the Working Time Directive, which also provided for rest breaks.

Our rights to annual leave were underpinned by the EU too we would not have a right to 28 days leave without that membership.

But for too many people in Britain today – work is still not secure.

So we cannot be content with the status quo.

If we want to stop insecurity at work and the exploitation of zero hours contracts why don’t we do what other European countries have done and ban them?

Zero hours contracts are not permitted in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland and Spain. It seems we’re the odd one out. This Tory government is choosing not to tackle exploitation Labour would.

As well as outlawing these exploitative contracts in Britain we should go further and work with our allies to establish a European minimum standard of rights at work to stop undercutting and give people the job security they need.

And now that Germany has introduced a minimum wage is there an opportunity to establish a European-wide minimum wage – based on the cost of living in different nations to increase workers’ pay across our continent?

There is a little known directive called the Posting of Workers Directive nothing to do with postal workers, Alan although I do hope they get overtime for all of the referendum leaflets they are about to deliver! The Posting of Workers Directive enables companies that win contracts in another part of Europe to take their workers to work in other countries they can post their workers abroad temporarily rather than go through new recruitment processes.

However, some legal judgements have opened up loopholes meaning that these companies are able to undermine the going rate in one country by paying the going rate in another.

In extreme cases it has meant workers not being paid the minimum wage of the country they’re working in because it is above the rate of their home nation.

This loophole can be closed and there is a proposal on the table to do so Labour would secure agreement from other countries and back it.

The European Union is neither inherently good nor inherently bad. It is what we make of it and it can be an ally in our campaigning for better rights at work across Europe.

Because, in this day and age we can only strengthen rights at work here in Britain by strengthening them across Europe.

The only way to stop the race to the bottom on jobs and wages is to work together across our continent to raise standards for all. That’s what we did with rights for agency workers for part-time workers and on so many other issues.

Through the social chapter and other directives we have achieved a situation in which:

Over 26 million workers in Britain benefit from being entitled to 28 days of paid leave and a limit to how many hours they can be forced to work

Over 8 million part-time workers (over six million of whom are women) have equal rights with full-time colleagues

Over 1 million temporary workers have the same rights as permanent workers

340,000 women every year have guaranteed rights to take maternity leave

And it’s important to understand the benefit of these gains it means workers throughout Europe have decent rights at work meaning it’s harder to undercut terms and conditions across Europe.

Several Leave supporters have stated clearly they want to leave Europe to water down workers’ rights to rip up the protections that protect work-life balance that prevent discrimination and prevent exploitation and injustice.

That is why we say the threat to the British people is not the European Union it is a Tory-led Brexit

So remain and fight; don’t walk away in despair.

Today three million jobs in Britain are linked to our trade with Europe that is why our major manufacturers and our major trade unions are for remaining within Europe.

But it is not only jobs with a direct link with Europe that are at risk our whole economy is threatened by any potential downturn caused by Brexit.

Whatever you feel about the European Union we should not lightly be prepared to put at risk the jobs and rights of people in this country.

Our economy is fragile and insecure hit by six years of Tory austerity that have weakened wages weakened rights at work and weakened job security.

We know who gets laid off when there is a downturn: it is young workers, insecure workers; those most recently hired are often first out.

We know who gets hit hardest by any downturn, it is working class communities.

A vote to leave risks more Tory austerity and more wrong choices because those would lead the Brexit negotiations would be the Tory right cheered on by UKIP.

They won’t pay for any downturn with tax increases on the wealthy or big corporations but with cuts to the public services of those who can least afford to lose them.

Those running the Vote Leave campaign have supported every cut to public services every privatisation and every tax break for the richest.

And frankly their divisive campaign deserves to lose. A vote to leave will embolden the likes of Nigel Farage and embolden them to be more xenophobic and more divisive.

Migrants that come here, they work here, earn here and pay their taxes here.

Many EU migrants – 52,000 of them – work in our National Health Service; they are 10% of all our doctors and 5% of our nurses.

Many more work in other public services educating our children caring for our elderly and helping to run our public transport.

They also come here and establish businesses providing jobs for people here in Britain and paying taxes.

Parties like UKIP whip up division and emphasise the problems but they don’t offer any solutions.

Identifying problems is not enough. As politicians we have to resolve them.

Housing is in short supply because governments have not built enough in the 1980s council housing was sold off without replacement and today the Tories have let housebuilding fall to the lowest level since the 1920s.

This year our NHS is in record deficit due to the Tories’ top-down reorganisation and their underfunding. They’ve cut social care for the elderly and disabled cut bursaries for nursed and midwives and cut mental health budgets.

They’ve allowed NHS Trusts to dedicate more resources to be used to treat private patients and have failed to train enough nurses and doctors. Now we rely on 52,000 doctors, nurses and other staff from the EU to work in our NHS.

Far from being a burden on our health service, migrants are saving it and saving lives here in Britain every day. You’re more likely to be treated by an EU migrant than be laying in the next bed down.

Our schools are about to suffer the largest budget cut since the 1970s yet there is a teacher shortage and class sizes are rising. Instead of finding the money to solve this the Tory government gave a tax break that benefits the richest 5% (capital gains tax).

Wrong government making the wrong choices and too often trying to blame someone else for the problems.

But large increases in migration in particular areas sometimes can put a strain on our stretched public services local schools, GPs surgeries and housing.

Some communities can change dramatically and rapidly and that can be disconcerting for some people. But that doesn’t make them Little Englanders, xenophobes or racists.

This isn’t the fault of migrants it’s a failure of government. We propose re-establishing a Migrant Impact Fund to distribute extra money to local areas where large scale migration puts a strain on public services on schools, GPs surgeries and on housing.

Such a fund used to exist Gordon Brown established a £50 million a year fund 2008 but David Cameron abolished it in 2010 we would reinstate it.

It could be funded through a combination of using EU underspend and reprioritising money from outdated existing EU schemes.

But if you want to find the main reason that our public services are struggling then it’s because of the cuts that this Tory government has made

And we mustn’t let them get away with playing that old game: divide and rule.

For all the arguments of recent weeks this Thursday’s decision can be boiled down to one crucial question. “What’s best for jobs in Britain, rights at work and our future prosperity?”

On 23rd June we are faced with a choice: Do we remain to protect jobs and prosperity in Britain. Or do we step into an unknown future with Leave where a Tory-negotiated Brexit risks economic recovery and threatens a bonfire of employment rights?

A vote for remain is a vote to put our economy and your future first. On Thursday please join me and join the overwhelming majority of the Labour movement in voting remain to protect jobs and rights at work.

But just as importantly join with us the day after to fight for a better society to campaign for reform and to strengthen jobs and workers’ rights across Europe.

We achieve more by working together we will achieve very little if we stand alone.

So let’s unite to make this country better to make the EU better and to make the world a better place.

Thank you.