Michael Gove has been accused of plotting to use Brexit to rob workers of their holidays and weaken employment rights.
According to The Sunday Times, the environment secretary will use a crunch Cabinet meeting on Tuesday to demand Theresa May pull the UK out of the EU Working Time Directive – which restricts the working week to 48 hours.
And the Sun on Sunday, Brexiteer ministers have “widespread” support in the Cabinet to scrap the rule. A source told the paper: “It will put the power to decide how hard to work back into the hands of the people who matter — the ordinary British worker.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady attacked the move as a “straight-up attack on our rights at work”.
“Millions could lose their paid holidays, and be forced to work ridiculously long hours,” she said.
“The Working Time Directive gave nearly five million women paid holidays for the first time. No-one voted for Brexit to lose out on holidays, or to hand power over to bad bosses.
“The prime minister promised that our working rights would be protected after Brexit. Now we will see if she can keep her word, or if she is a hostage to extremists in her own cabinet.”
Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said the reports were “yet more evidence that senior Tories, including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, want to use Brexit as an excuse to rip up workers’ rights”.
“Theresa May must publicly reject this approach and condemn it in this week’s Cabinet meeting. If she fails to do so then she will have turned her back on British workers. The directive offers protection to millions of workers who without it will be vulnerable to exploitation from unscrupulous employers,” she said.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that a Conservative Brexit will weaken workers’ rights, deregulate the economy and slash corporate taxes. Labour will protect workers’ rights and ensure that everyone gets a fair deal at work.”
Other Labour MPs and MEPs have also sharply criticsed any move to downgrade workers’ rights.
According to the TUC, if the directive is scrapped seven million workers could lose rights to paid holidays – 4.7 million of them women – and many on zero-hours or part-time contracts.
Workers could also lose the right to lunch and rest breaks, and night workers could lose some health and safety protections, the union body added.
On Sunday the internal Tory war over Brexit continued, as backbench MP Nadine Dorries repeated her call for Conservatives who voted against the government in order to secure a vote on the final Brexit deal be deselected.
But ex-cabinet minister Ken Clarke said it was “idiotic” to call for a purge of Tory europhiles and “absurd” to say the revolt was helping Jeremy Corbyn.