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2014 National Delegate Conference
1 January 2014

Conference notes that the European Union (EU) and the United States have started negotiations on a new trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which could serve as a model for all future trade agreements.

Conference further notes that the TTIP will not just remove trade tariffs but will also: harmonise regulatory standards; open markets in the service sector which could include public services such as health, social services and higher education; open up public procurement markets; and introduce the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism allowing multinational investors to challenge state actions which they perceive as threatening their investments.

Conference believes that the harmonisation of regulatory standards puts at risk existing European regulations in the fields of public health, social and employment rights, health and safety and the environment. Conference also believes, based on the experience of other trade agreements, that multinationals will use the Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism to further erode the ability of national governments to act in the public interest. Canadian national and provincial governments have spent millions of dollars fighting claims by US firms filed under the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA). Australia has vowed never to include ISDS in future trade agreements after its attempts to regulate tobacco packaging was challenged by multinational Phillip Morris under using a trade agreement with Hong Kong.

Conference also believes that the inclusion of public services in the agreement will have a major impact on the National Health Service following the large-scale privatisation ushered in by the Health and Social Act in England. Private healthcare multinationals could use the ISDS mechanism to try to prevent governments bringing the health service back into public control in the future.

Conference further believes that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will only serve the interests of multinational enterprises and those who seek to push back regulation and liberalise public services and permanently remove them from democratic control in order to extract maximum private profit. Conference therefore agrees to campaign for the rejection of the TTIP drawing particular attention to the serious danger it poses to public services and their democratic control and the threat posed by the Investor State Dispute Mechanism to the public interest.

With the UK governments ongoing attempts to ‘open up’ public services Conference believes that markets rather than citizens are wrongly being placed at the heart of our public services. Conference asserts that this market centred approach to public services is being further encouraged by the new EU Public Procurement Directive and its weakening of public service procurement rules and encouragement of mutualisation. Conference notes that the UK has a long and noble tradition of mutual organisations and co-operatives, many of whom are against the government attempts to promote weak mutual models in public services.

Conference notes with concern the publication of REFIT (Regulatory Fitness and Performance: Results and Next Steps) by the European Commission in October 2013. According to the Commission, the purpose of REFIT is to “detect regulatory burdens and to identify opportunities for simplification”. Under REFIT, the Commission has withdrawn health and safety proposals on the protection of workers against work-related cancers and musculoskeletal disorders, and is envisaging a consolidation of the three directives on Information and Consultation, Collective Redundancies and Transfer of Undertakings – which could potentially weaken all three. Conference believes that the ETUC is correct in identifying that “the Commission is engaged in a process aimed at the deregulation of Europe, the dismantling of legislation protecting workers’ rights and the weakening of social dialogue”. Conference notes that the ETUC regards this agenda as being partly driven by national governments, including the UK Government.

Conference, therefore, calls on the National Executive Council to:

1) Work with the TUC, EPSU and PSI to campaign against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership;

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

3) Raise our TTIP concerns with all political parties and in particular, through Labour Link, with Labour MPs and MEPs;

4) Continue to promote the benefits of in – house delivery and against any attempts by public bodies to avoid public procurement rules whilst outsourcing;

5) Push for greater use of social, environmental, full cost recovery and labour clauses in tendering not cut price contracting;

6) Work with service groups to build branch and regional capacity amongst UNISON members, and local communities, in responding to privatisation, procurement and ‘mutualisation’ threats;

7) Raise awareness of TTIP with UNISON members as part of our political education programme.

8) Campaign against REFIT and seek to build opposition to deregulation amongst our members and the wider public. In addition, work through the Labour Link to gain commitments that a Labour-led Government would not continue the present Coalition Government’s attacks on existing workplace and environmental protections.