UNISON delegates in Brighton today agreed that it is a “top priority” for the union to continue to campaign against public services being included in the trio of trade treaties that are currently being forged between politicians and businessmen behind closed doors.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and the EU, and the broader Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) are still being negotiated, while the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU is closer to ratification.
Public services have been included in all three agreements, despite an unprecedented European and US public and trade union campaign.
Introducing a composite motion, Jane Carolan of the NEC told delegates: “I truly wish last night’s vote [in the EU referendum] would have made this debate redundant.
“But even though we’re now leaving the European Union, we’re still subject to TTIP through the single market. And some of the extreme Brexiters are the strongest TTIP supporters.”
Ms Carolan said that TTIP, TiSA and CETA were negotiated with “no democratic accountability or transparency” and were “acronyms that cover a multitude of sins” – among them, a licence for multinational companies to take control of public sector services.
Not only was there a major threat of privatisation of services, but also a “lock-in of privatisation” so that private companies with a hold on health care and other services could not be removed, she said.
Roz Norman of the East Midlands region called the agreements “very, very dangerous, threatening the heart of public services.
“If they go forward, they will affect every person in this conference. Our public services will be sold off to the highest bidder, with no guarantee that we will ever get them back.”
Employment and trade union rights would be attacked, and health and safety standards driven down, while the deals could also pose a threat to the environment.
Ms Norman also warned against a particular proposal of the TiSA agreement, which is for a necessity test so that new regulations are “no more burdensome then necessary” – namely to profits.
UNISON has led the fight against TTIP, as a founder member of the No TTIP coalition. And it will continue to do so.
Among a raft of measures, it was agreed that the NEC would campaign for all public services to be removed from all trade agreements.