A Tory MP has called for the government to review the EU’s working time directive after Brexit to fill labour shortages.
Appearing on the BBC’s Politics South West programme, the Conservative MP for North Cornwall was asked about how the government will solve the problem of shortage of workers once the Brexit transition period ends and the new points-based immigration system is introduced.
Mann admitted that the impact Priti Patel’s proposals will have on the workforce is “one of the biggest challenges has at the moment”.
But he explained that he believed the overall policy was popular with the public.
He said: “The public do want immigration to come down, and they want people in this country to be upskilled to the point they are able to take over from some of those jobs.
“I think there is a challenge there but, as I alluded to earlier, the employment rate is very, very high and we are in a position whereby the level of recruitment in some of those industries is quite substantial.”
He continued to explain that a “smarter approach” is needed to policies for “skilling up employment” to take on vacancies.
Challenged by the presenter using past comments from George Eustice, Mann had a suggestion for what the government could do next.
“I genuinely think we need to have a serious think looking at the working time directive,” he said.
The Working Time Directive only prevents forced overtime — it does not prevent voluntary overtime.— Cleay Perham (@cleay) March 3, 2020
What he's talking about is not an 'opportunity' for workers to choose to work longer hours, it's an opportunity for employers to force workers to work longer hours.
Pointed out by the host that it was there to protect vulnerable people from excessive hours, he acknowledged this.
“Indeed, but there might be an opportunity for people wanting to work over those hours, and I think you can voluntarily do that at the moment anyway, but there might be a case for the government actually saying ‘if you want do this, we could encourage it’.
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“Look we have a challenge in Cornwall getting the skilled work that we require, and I think there is a gap in the employment market at this moment in time, and I think this immigration policy could have some challenges in delivering economic prosperity”.
The government has consistently denied it intends to weaken workers’ rights after Brexit, but removed a number of assurances from the Withdrawal Agreement Bill after Boris Johnson’s election win.
“Who didn’t see this coming?” asked @CFR_Nick.
“Tories declare intention to maximise modern work slavery,” tweeted John West, after the video clip surfaced on social media.
“This was always the end game for them,” said Calum Carson. “The opportunity to use Brexit to dilute employment rights.”
“What he’s talking about is not an ‘opportunity’ for workers to choose to work longer hours, it’s an opportunity for employers to force workers to work longer hours,” posted Cleay Perham.
“We already can *voluntarily* work longer,” acknowledged Twitter user @RuthFT. “Scrapping the Working Time Directive allows employers to *force* people to work longer. And I somehow doubt once they’ve suspended it they’re going to reinstate it when this is all over…”
“I wonder how many Brexit promises will actually be KEPT?” queried Andrew Wainwright.
“Work yourself to death for Brexit!” tweeted @irritatedllama. “That wasn’t on the side of the big red lying bus!”
The MP was approached by The New European for further clarification of his remarks.
He said: “The majority of my constituents want to see immigration reduced and they are positive about the new points-based system which this government will be introducing.
“At the same time, my farming and hospitality sectors in North Cornwall have raised some concerns with me about how our historically low unemployment rate raises challenges filling low skilled positions. This is something I have been happy to feedback to colleagues in Westminster as we seek solutions.
“Some workers may wish to voluntarily extend their hours, or take on the job training to upskill, and in my opinion, the new rules should reflect this.”