The threat of EU trade agreements to public services

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2015 Health Care Service Group Conference
5 January 2015
Carried as Amended

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). Conference also notes that EU and Canada have finalised negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and that the EU is also negotiating the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) with over 20 other countries.

Conference further notes that all three agreements seek to create a global market in services, including public services that could lead to the liberalisation and privatisation of these services.

Conference notes that both TTIP and CETA also include investment chapters seeking to protect Foreign Direct Investment by global multinationals by using the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism which allows multinational investors to challenge state actions which they perceive as threatening their investments.

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

Conference notes that we are already seeing the impact of privatisation on staff pay, terms and conditions. Conference fears that TTIP has the potential to make matters far worse for the working conditions of UNISON members in the NHS. And, that this in turn will have a serious detrimental impact on patients as services are increasingly run to make profits for multinational companies.

Conference also notes that TTIP and CETA seek to remove ‘regulatory barriers’ to trade through mutual recognition of regulatory regimes and eventual harmonisation of standards. 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 therefore agrees to campaign for their rejection drawing particular attention to the serious danger it poses to the NHS in the UK and to the job security, pay terms and conditions of NHS staff.

Conference, therefore, calls on the Health Service Group Executive to:

1) raise awareness of TTIP, CETA and TiSA with UNISON members working in the NHS;

2) work with the other health trade unions to campaign against all three trade agreements and highlight the risk to jobs pay terms and conditions and therefore the risk to patient services;

3) to work with other sections of UNISON to ensure the risk to NHS staff and their working conditions and employment status is taken into account in the wider UNISON campaign on this issue.