‘OUR union has just reiterated its stance and that is that it is to vote to leave the EU,’ Ronnie Draper, General Secretary of BFAWU (Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union), said yesterday.
‘It happened on Sunday. It was a fabulous debate at our annual conference held in Southport last weekend, with delegates expressing strong opinions both ways. There was a vote at the end of it and the vote was to leave. Other unions are welcome to their positions. We respect their views and I hope they respect ours.’
Draper was speaking to News Line after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn issued a call to the ‘whole Labour movement’ to campaign to keep the UK in the EU. Speaking at TUC Congress House in Central London, and flanked by members of the Labour shadow cabinet, along with Unite and Unison leaders McCluskey and Prentis in prominent positions on either side of him, Corbyn claimed: ‘It is the Labour position, it is the trade union position, to vote to remain.’
He claimed that workers’ jobs and workers’ rights would be threatened by a Leave vote on 23rd June and that there would be a ‘bonfire’ of workers’ rights if there was a vote to leave.
Corbyn said: ‘We are making the strongest case we can, from Lands End to John o’ Groats, from Norwich over to north Wales, we are making the case everywhere, that staying in the European Union gives us the opportunity to defend and extend the rights of people at work, gives us the jobs that we need and the exports that we must fulfil as a country to the rest of Europe.’
He warned Labour voters that they should think ‘very carefully’ before deciding which way to vote. But former minister Frank Field said Labour voters would not be ‘pushed around’ as the leadership saw fit.
‘The idea that Labour voters are owned by the party… and the troops will do as they are told, that may have happened in 1945 but it has long ceased to happen and it isn’t going to happen this time. If you are at the bottom of the pile you’ve paid the price… and people are saying “it’s enough, I’m fed up, it’s enough, and we don’t have to take it”.
‘It is partly what this vote is about to say, we’ve borne the price of your open markets, of our wages being pushed down, of our children not being able to get houses, not being able to get into schools that they would like to, of lengthening queues in the NHS, and the referendum day will be a day when they say enough is enough.’
After the midday photocall with Corbyn and the Labour Party leadership, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, along with McCluskey, Prentis, GMB leader Tim Roach and other TUC General Council members, signed a letter claiming to speak for the whole trade union movement, and threatening that leaving the EU will be ‘a disaster for working people’.
However, Ronnie Draper made it clear to News Line that the majority in the bakers union is voting to leave the EU, while a spokesman for the RMT told News Line: ‘We’ve already made our position very clear, we are in favour of a Leave vote,’ and the other main railway workers’ union, Aslef, is also on record as urging members to vote Leave.