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EU referendum: Union leader warning employees could pay heavy price for Brexit

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland "cannot afford to gamble with thousands of jobs", a trade union boss urging voters to stay in the EU has said.

Peter Bunting, Irish Congress of Trade Unions' assistant general secretary, said the "risk and uncertainty resulting from leaving is bound to have economic effects, which workers will be expected to pay for".

His comments come after the Financial Services Union (FSU) also urged its members in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK to reject Brexit.

Larry Broderick, general secretary of the FSU, said that a UK withdrawal from the EU "would have a negative impact on the economy and jobs".

"While some Brexiteers seem to believe that any negative effect would be temporary and that the UK could eventually develop trading relationships as a separate entity, no-one can say with certainty what the nature of these relationships would be and how long they would take to be established," he said.

"So at best, Brexit represents a risky leap into the unknown, at worst, it seems like economic suicide.

"Workers in the financial services sector are particularly vulnerable to economic downturns - since the prospects for the sector are directly related to the level of activity in the economy as a whole."

Mr Bunting said, in particular, that the majority of those within the manufacturing sector, are on "high alert" and "employers and unions are united in their calls for Remain".

"The EU is by far Northern Ireland's biggest trading partner, accounting for 56% of our goods and services exports," he said.

"That is one reason why the unions representing workers in manufacturing are arguing to remain. The risk resulting from leaving is bound to have economic effects, which workers will be expected to pay for."

He said other sectors facing a hit from a Brexit include farming, agri-food, science sectors, finance and other skilled roles.

Mr Broderick said: "Our members are already facing far-reaching challenges to their livelihoods in terms of the internal restructuring of financial institutions and the emergence of new potentially disruptive technologies. We could not, therefore, recommend adding further threats to their future job security and living standards by this leap into the unknown.

"We, therefore, concur with the position taken by both the British Trades Union Congress and the Northern Ireland Committee of ICTU in urging all our members who are eligible to vote in the referendum this week to exercise their right - and to vote in favour of the UK's continuing membership of the European Union."

The majority of trade unions in Northern Ireland and the UK have come out in support of remaining part of the UK.

However, Nipsa - Northern Ireland's largest trade union - is backing a Brexit. It believes the EU benefits big business, rather than individuals, and is also concerned about the ongoing negotiations around the TTIP trade agreement between the EU and the US.

Belfast Telegraph

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