TTIP and the threat to LGBT equality

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2014 National LGBT Conference
26 September 2014

Motion for national delegate conference

Conference notes growing concern about the negotiations between the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade treaty. The proposed agreement is not about traditional trade issues. It is a wide-ranging trade deal giving unprecedented power and influence to transnational corporations and limiting the role of democratic governments to regulate in the public interest. It opens up public services, including our National Health Service (NHS), social services and education, to private profit to an unprecedented extent, removing the control of governments to act in the interest of their citizens, whether as workers or service users.

Conference notes that one of the key elements is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause, which would act as a tribunal. ISDS could see millions of pounds paid out to big private sector corporations if NHS services are brought back into the public sector.

The European Union has exclusive powers to negotiate trade and investment agreements. In the UK, the department for Business Innovation and Skills is the lead. The TTIP negotiations are shrouded in secrecy with national governments and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) having only limited access to documents. Little information is publicly available about the content. Because of this lack of transparency or proper democratic oversight, trade unions and equality groups are denied opportunities for scrutiny and consultation.

Conference is concerned that the painstaking work over decades to build UK public services that are accessible to and meet the needs of all will be unraveled if profit becomes the only driver. The most disadvantaged in society, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), women, disabled, Black, young and older people, are the most reliant on public services and are most likely to be in precarious employment.

As the US has not even ratified some of the most fundamental labour rights set out by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), for example the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, this means that standardisation across the EU and US as proposed by TTIP would most likely start an avalanche to the bottom.

Conference is concerned that previous free trade agreements, such as CETA between the EU and Canada, should not be used as a blueprint for TTIP. Agreements between Mexico, Canada and the US have resulted in a rise in atypical employment. This translates as precarious jobs for workers in already marginalised sectors of the workforce, particularly those who work in public services – many of whom are our members. TTIP may force more of our members into low paid, part time, zero hours contracts and reduced terms and conditions.

The anti-union policies of US corporations and the wish for transatlantic harmonisation would accelerate the US model of weakening the unions in Europe as well.

Conference believes that workers’ rights are coming under increasing threat as neo-liberal policies are implemented globally. The work of trade unions, together with non governmental organisations, to challenge labour and human rights violations wherever they occur has never been more vital.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to work with our General Political Fund, UNISON international, service group executives, the self organised groups and young members group to:

1) Encourage branches and regions to link up with organisations locally that are campaigning against TTIP such as War on Want, 38 Degrees and the World Development Movement;

2) Continue to spread the word about the dangers of TTIP using all possible means, including social media;

3) Work with the Trades Union Congress, European Federation of Public Service Unions, Public Services International and Education International to campaign against TTIP;

4) Use the campaign against TTIP to strengthen our links with sister unions in the United States and get them more involved in our labour internationals;

5) Working with Labour Link, lobby Labour MPs and MEPs to oppose TTIP.