In just over five weeks, on 23 June, Britain will vote either to leave or remain in the European Union. Arguments are currently raging on the national stage about borders, sovereignty, the economy, and, of course, on the bendiness of bananas.
But here at the Port Talbot Magnet we decided to ask one simple question. What does the outcome of the referendum mean for us in Port Talbot?
Over the next five weeks, we’ll be running a series of articles, asking a wide range of local politicians and organisations what they think either ‘Brexiting’ or ‘Bremaining’ might mean for our town. We kick off with a look at how the referendum might affect women, with a guest contribution from Port Talbot and Afan Women’s Aid.
Over the coming weeks, we will look at the steel industry, immigration, the local economy and EU funding. If you would like to suggest a topic, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. How will women be affected by our decision to leave or remain in the EU?
Title: Director of Port Talbot and Afan Women’s Aid
Women from all different backgrounds benefit from the UK being in the EU, which is why it has been reported that women could decide whether we’re in or out. Although there is a long way to go, the EU has been pivotal in making progress towards equal rights for women. EU legislation has significantly improved maternity (and paternity) rights. It ensures that pregnant women have a minimum of 14 weeks paid maternity leave, they are protected from dismissal and have the right to return to the same or similar role.
Because of the EU, women in work are now guaranteed equal pay for equal work, and agency, part time and fixed term employees, who are most likely to be women, now benefit from equal rights in line with permanent employees.
The EU is committed to tackling violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence, which is particularly important in less developed countries. Being part of the EU allows us to create change outside of our own UK borders which would significantly improve the lives of women and children.
Title: UKIP Wales Campaign Manager
All rights such as maternity rights and so forth will remain unchanged as they are written in UK law as well as EU law. UK law often goes further than UK law in protecting the rights of individuals. Visit www.womenforbritain.org Women for Britain is the leave campaign for all women who believe the UK will thrive as a free and independent nation outside the EU.
Job title: Plaid Cymru MEP
I think that women in Wales would be worse off if Wales left the European Union. The European Union has ensured legislation about equal pay, maternity and paternity leave. In contrast, you can easily imagine a right wing UK Government undermining those hard fought moves towards fairness. It has always been the European Union which has taken the lead in raising these issues and putting them on the agenda, and a quick look at the leaders of the Leave campaign from UKIP and the Tories shows that women have a lot to lose if their worldview was implemented.
Job title: Welsh Labour MEP
Nearly half of women workers work part time. Thanks to the EU, they now have equal rights to paid leave, pensions, maternity rights and other benefits. More than half of agency workers are women, and agency workers now have better access to childcare and same rights as permanent staff after 12 weeks on an assignment.
In the past women had to work for the same employer for two years before being entitled to maternity rights. EU law now sets a baseline of 26 weeks working for the same employer continuously into the 15th week before the baby is due. EU law also means that parents have the right to 13 weeks unpaid leave to be taken before the child’s fifth birthday.
Many women have been excluded from pension schemes because of breaks to have children or because they worked part time. EU law now prevents such discrimination.
Brexit would mean an end to these protections which would be left at the whim of a government whose Tory predecessors had opposed the introduction of many of these gains in the first place.
Title: Plaid Cymru regional AM South Wales West
Port Talbot and the surrounding area has a disproportionately high number of women in part-time work. This much became clear a few years ago when the local authority wanted to sack its workforce and re-employ it on worse terms and conditions.
If we withdraw from the European Union, I am certain that among the first things that the Conservative Government will repeal is the European Time Directive and other work-related rights. This government has kept up the Tory assault on our rights in the workplace in an attempt to support big business and those who back the party.
In this regard, the European Union has acted as a force for good for women and other workers, who will find their wages and conditions under attack as never before if we lose the protection we currently enjoy.
Many women in the Port Talbot workforce are also the sole breadwinner in their households. This would mean that their children and other dependents would lose out too if we vote for Brexit.
Make sure you are registered to vote
You must be registered in order to vote in the EU Referendum. The deadline for registering is 7 June. Click here to register.
How we compiled this series
We think it’s important to know how this big decision might affect our town. We’ve already seen the way global and European decisions can make a difference to the day-to-day lives of people living in Port Talbot as decisions made in Mumbai, Brussels and Westminster have impacted our own steel industry. We are also keen to try to get a representative and fair view of both sides of the campaign. A team of us worked to come up with a list of topics we felt were relevant to our town, and we put together a questionnaire. We then compiled a list of people we could approach, from across the political spectrum, and from different organisations, with an interest or stake in the town. We emailed these people, and followed up as many as we could with phone calls or social media messages. As well as the people above, our list was made up of the following people, who either declined to take part, or who did not respond. If you feel you would like to take part, or would like to suggest someone that we may have missed, please email email@example.com.
Who we asked
Ali Thomas – council leader (declined)
Dave Jenkins – former prospective conservative AM / Area Chairman, Welsh Conservative Party (South Wales West) (no response)
Kay Swinburne – Conservative MEP (no response)
Helen Ceri Clarke – Liberal Democrat (no response)
Age Cymru – (no response)
Callum Munro, Community Union Press officer – (no response)
Nigel Cahill – Aberavon parish rector (no response)
Michael Cosker – Port Talbot Chamber of Trade (no response)
Glenda Davies – prospective UKIP AM (no response)
Jonathan Tier – prospective Green Party AM (no response)
Peter Black – former Welsh Liberal Democrat AM (no response)
Suzy Davies – Welsh Conservative AM (Declined)
Stephen Kinnock – Labour MP (too late)
Caroline Jones – UKIP AM (no response)
Dai Lloyd – Plaid Cymru AM (no response)
John Bufton – UKIP MEP (no response)
David Rees – Labour AM (Partial response)
Additional research by: Teresa Davison, Beverley Simmonds-Owen and Tomas Stephens