The European elections on June 10 offer a key opportunity for workers to make their voices heard, according to the Trades Union Congress.
A 'Eurosceptic press' and the 'remoteness' of the European parliament' s decision-making process have resulted in apathy towards the elections, according to the TUC, with fewer than one in five people expected to vote. In its campaign to urge people to go to the ballot box, the TUC points out that workplace reforms which have come from Europe include those relating to holidays and working hours. They have also led to legislation outlawing discrimination against workers on the basis of their sexual orientation. The EU has made other changes welcomed by trade unions Ð such as greater environmental protection and a better deal for consumers. Next year new rights to information and consultation will also be introduced. The European Trade Union Confederation is also running a campaign urging voters to take part in elections. 'VotersÉ will have the opportunity to influence the future, and to move the political agenda towards a 'social' Europe with more and better jobs, equal opportunities, social inclusion and a role for the social partners in determining economic and social policy.' Lesley Mercer, the CSP' s assistant director of employment relations and union services, told Frontline: 'It may be fashionable to bash Europe and ask what it has done for us but it is important to remember it has brought in a raft of measures giving protection against discrimination in the workplace. 'It is through European legislation that part-time workers won access to pensions, how gay and lesbian workers gained rights and employees gained the right to paid holidays.' Lesley added that it was important for CSP members to vote in the European elections if they wanted to influence the outcome. The British National Party is fielding a record number of candidates in this year' s poll, contesting 75 out of the UK' s 78 seats in the European parliament. A motion carried at this year' s CSP Annual Representative Conference noted with concern the possibility of further electoral gains in 2004 by organisations seeking to attract votes on the basis of racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and the vilification of refugees and asylum seekers. Conference called on the Society to join forces with groups campaigning against such parties. For more information on the elections, the candidates and how to vote, go to: www.europecounts.org.uk
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