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Brexit would threaten workers' rights in Northern Ireland, says union leader

Published 29/04/2016

Peter Bunting said EU membership underpinned workers' rights
Peter Bunting said EU membership underpinned workers' rights

Brexit would threaten rights won by workers in Northern Ireland, a trade union leader has said.

Progress on eliminating pay differences between men and women and addressing zero hours contracts has been made during the last term of the Stormont administration.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) said EU membership underpinned workers' rights.

Assistant general secretary Peter Bunting said: "It is worth noting, however, that our membership of the EU acts to underpin workers' rights across the UK, and if the Tory right succeed in dragging Northern Ireland away from the EU then it would be easier for them to drag down the legal entitlements won by workers all across the UK.

"We must protect our devolution just as we must resist those calls for Brexit."

On April 22 the Northern Ireland Employment Act was granted Royal Assent.

The Act strengthens employment protections for workers in Northern Ireland, placing them in a better position than workers in Great Britain, the union said.

Mr Bunting added: "This Act shows what happens when locally elected and accountable politicians work with the people most affected by the laws they pass.

"It would be almost inconceivable that we could have got as good a deal from a Tory direct rule minister.

"As a consequence of devolution, Northern Ireland workers are better off than fellow workers in Great Britain because of key differences in the rules."

The rules cover industrial tribunals, redundancy periods and backdated holiday pay.

Mr Bunting added: "The situation for workers is far from perfect, but it would be churlish to ignore progress when it happens. We will continue to work after the Assembly election with all the MLAs to improve further the rights and rewards for our members."

The ICTU's annual May Day parade will be held on Saturday and begin at Donegall Street in Belfast.

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