Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

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2015 National Delegate Conference
1 January 2015

Conference notes that the European Union (EU) is currently negotiating three free trade agreements including the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The others are the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Canada (CETA) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). These agreements threaten public services by harmonising regulatory standards, forcing through market liberalisation and could drive down trade union and employment rights by failing to enforce compliance with International Labour Organisation (ILO) core conventions.

Conference notes growing concern about the negotiations between the EU and the United States (US) on TTIP. 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. ISDS would allow multinational investors to challenge state actions which they perceive as threatening their investments in international tribunals rather than in national courts.

Conference believes, based on the experience of other trade agreements, that multinational corporations will use the ISDS mechanism to further erode the ability of national governments to act in the public interest.

The possible consequence, for example, of recompensing a tobacco firm for a loss of sales due to stricter government health legislation would be unacceptable. This is what happened in Australia under the terms of a similar partnership arrangement when the government enforced cigarette packaging.

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 unravelled 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 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.

Conference further believes that these Free Trade Agreements will only serve the interests of multinational corporations and those who seek to push back regulation and privatise public services and permanently remove them from democratic control in order to extract maximum private profit.

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 is also very concerned that TTIP will provide a route for America to breach our more stringent food safety regulations, putting the health and well being of our citizens at risk.

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 notes that the negotiation process may lead to an effort to introduce a ‘TTIP-lite’ proposal – perhaps removing the ISDS mechanism and emphasising protections for the NHS. Conference does not regard such concessions as adequate and reaffirms our position of outright opposition to TTIP.

Conference applauds the campaigning that has already taken place in opposing TTIP, including the involvement of UNISON members in the #noTTIP delegation organised by Global Justice Now (formerly the World Development Movement) that went to Brussels to lobby MEPs in February 2015.

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 and other free trade agreements such as War on Want, 38 Degrees and Global Justice Now;

2)Continue to spread the word about the dangers of TTIP to our public services, to the workers who provide them and to the health of all of us using all possible means, including social media;

3)Continue to raise awareness amongst UNISON members of the damaging effects on public services, democracy and working people of these agreements

4)Continue to oppose TTIP in the event of a ‘TTIP-lite’ proposal being suggested

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

6)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;

7)7) Work with Labour Link, lobby Labour MPs and MEPs to oppose TTIP.