Pacific Trade Agreement a Recipe for Corporate Greed

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has described the 12-country “Trans-Pacific Partnership” (TPP) trade deal announced on 5 October as a recipe for corporate greed. While the final text of the agreement is still not publicly available, leaked texts have given rise to major concerns amongst trade unions and other civil society groups.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “Powerful corporations were given an inside track in the secretive negotiations of the TPP and their influence is clear in the outcome. Yet again, governments have put the interests of finance and big business ahead of ordinary people, with more financial deregulation, longer patents on medicines at the expense of the public, and restrictions on digital freedoms. Corporations will be able to sue governments under the infamous ISDS dispute procedures; there are no direct remedies for workers.”

Negotiators rushed to complete the deal in time for a “yes or no” vote in the US Congress before the presidential election campaign is in full swing next year.

A labour chapter is included in the agreement. Trade unions put forward a comprehensive proposal to make such chapters more effective in guaranteeing workers’ rights and standards. Few ideas were taken up, and none which would have ensured that complaints see their day in court. While companies can directly launch ISDS proceedings to protect their profits, workers have to ask governments to intervene on their behalf. “Labour enforcement of this type has only ever been used once, under the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), against Guatemala. That case has already taken seven years, and still there is no final decision or compliance by the government,” said Burrow.

A leaked draft of the environmental chapter contained no enforcement mechanism and failed to take into account the need for action to mitigate climate change.

During the negotiations, the US controversially watered down its criticism of Malaysia in its Trafficking in Persons report, in a move widely seen as a tactic to help push through the TPP deal. While TPP-related labour compliance plans were developed for Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, these will not come into force immediately, with a five-year delay in the case of Vietnam. No such plan was adopted for Mexico, where there are severe violations of ILO standards.

The TPP will constrain public procurement tenders with highly restrictive international rules that put an ill-conceived notion of “competitiveness” above public policy aims such as job creation, environmental protection and human and workers’ rights, when awarding contracts for procurement. Similarly, several governments have granted market access in public services and utilities that will jeopardise the quality of and public access to such services.

The agreement will also constrain governments’ ability to regulate through the establishment of new procedures that aim at harmonising regulation across the twelve countries, with corporations again getting an inside track.

Lofty promises made by governments and business lobbies about job creation and living standards from this type of trade deal are a familiar refrain. Unfortunately, the bold predictions have rarely proven to be true, with powerful multinationals the real beneficiaries,” said Burrow.

[ed. note]  The ITUC is the most inclusive global organization of national centers of labor unions like the AFL-CIO.

World Labor Unions Urge Halt to TPP Negotiations

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has called on governments to stop negotiations on the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” agreement, criticising the secrecy and corporate bias in the current negotiations.

The Communication Workers of America (CWA), the Teamsters and the Machinists are leading the AFL-CIO’s efforts.  Together with a broad coalition of organizations put together by the Citizen’s Trade Campaign, they delivered a total of 663,373 petition signatures and letters opposing Fast Track trade authority to House and Senate leaders.

CWA President Larry Cohen promised that CWA activists would turn their attention to stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as “a dangerous trade deal that threatens our jobs, communities and the environment by giving big business new powers to undermine important laws and regulations.”  Cohen added:”We’ll be demanding that the White House and Congress put its citizens before the corporate and financial interests that already define and dominate the global economy.”

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “This secretive trade deal is good for some multinational corporations, but deeply damaging to ordinary people and the very role of governments. Corporate interests are at the negotiating table, but national parliaments and other democratic actors are being kept in the dark. What we do know, much of it through leaks, is that this proposed deal is not about ensuring better livelihoods for people, but about giving multinational companies a big boost to profits. Governments should shut down the negotiations, and not re-open them unless they get genuine and transparent public mandates at home that put people’s interest in the centre.”

The current TPP proposals include provisions which would:
- Make governments submit to so-called investor to state dispute settlement (ISDS) procedures whereby investors can sue governments on a wide range of policies, including environmental and social policies ;
- Introduce patent protections that would boost pharmaceutical companies’ profits, but put vital medicines out of reach for millions of poorer people;
- Severely restrict governments’ ability to make national laws for public health, safety and general welfare with a ‘regulatory coherence’ chapter;
- Stop governments from giving priority to public policy aims when making decisions about public procurement;
- Impose a series of restrictions on governments’ abilities to regulate the financial sector, thus holding back efforts to reform damaging financial speculation and impeding governments from taking measures to maintain their balance of payment.

Proposals for protection of workers’ rights have met with heavy resistance from some countries, and appear to not cover all ILO Conventions that establish Fundamental Rights at Work or subnational (state and province) labour legislation. The proposals also contain no enforcement for environmental provisions, and fail to address the need for action to mitigate climate change.

“A fair and open global trading system is essential to prosperity, but this proposed TPP is nothing of the sort. Global and regional trade needs to create jobs and prosperity for the many, not just provide welfare for corporations and transfer more power from the parliaments to the boardroom,” said Burrow.

National trade union centers in the countries negotiating the TPP are today formally calling on their governments to stop the negotiations, and to seek a proper negotiation mandate if they are to engage in the negotiations again.

The national trade union centers that support this call are: Australia, ACTU; Canada, CSN and CSD; Japan, JTUC-RENGO; Mexico, UNT; New Zealand, NZCTU; Peru, CUT and CATP; United States, AFL-CIO. Some of these trade unions, as well as the unions of Chile (CUT-Chile) and Malaysia (MTUC) had asked for the negotiations to stop at an earlier stage.

For more information on the global trade union effort, contact the ITUC Press Department on +32 2 224 02 04

WikiLeaks Reveals True Intent of Secret TiSA Trade Talks


International Trade Union Confederation

International Trade Union Confederation

A WikiLeaks exposé has revealed the true intent behind secret 50-country negotiations on a new “financial services” chapter of the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) at the WTO in Geneva.  The draft agreement being discussed by government officials is aimed at weakening financial regulation and giving extra market access to hedge funds, banks, insurers and other providers.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “Governments are negotiating away financial regulation in secret, instead of tackling the unfinished regulation task that triggered the current global economic crisis in 2007.  It defies belief that they are actually planning to help the already ‘too big to fail’ banks and other financial conglomerates to expand.”

“It is deeply disturbing to find out that governments are getting ready to exempt from or expedite the approval of some of the most toxic insurance products, like Credit Default Swaps, and also allow hedge funds and banks to launch ‘unlimited new products’ without proper controls.”

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New Legal Report: Right to Strike Backed by International Law

by ITUC OnLine

NY garment workers on strike 1913--(wikimedia)

NY garment workers on strike 1913–(wikimedia)

(Brussels, 3 June 2014 ): A new 122-page ITUC legal report, confirming that the right to strike is protected under international law, has been released today as employers try to overturn decades of jurisprudence at the International Labour Organisation.  Employer representatives at the ILO are continuing their efforts to strip back ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association, which guarantees workers the right to take strike action, as the UN agency holds its 103rd International Labour Conference in Geneva this month. Continue reading

ITUC World Congress – Poll: Governments told to tame corporate power

3rd International Trade Union Confederation Congress opens in Berlin representing the world’s working people.


International Trade Union Confederation

International Trade Union Confederation

Workers across the globe are losing faith in their national governments whom they see as putting the interests of big corporations ahead of their own, according to a new international public opinion poll from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Released at the opening of the 3rd ITUC World Congress in Berlin, Sunday 18th May, the ITUC Global Poll 2014 commissioned from market research company TNS Opinion, covers the general public of fourteen countries which have half the world’s population.

The global economy needs co-ordinated action to raise living standards around the world. Seven years into the economic crisis has left structural damage to the global economy and the global workforce with more than 200 million people unemployed and many more struggling with low wages. Governments are in the grip of corporate power and are failing their people”  said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation.

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ITUC May Day Statement: Tame corporate power – reduce inequality


International Trade Union Confederation

International Trade Union Confederation

Building Workers’ Power is vital to drive economic, industrial and social transformation.   The international system today is heavily stacked against workers and their families, and governments are increasingly cowered by big finance and big business.   A tiny proportion of the world’s population holds vast power and wealth, while millions upon millions of people have no job or work in precarious and exploitative conditions for little reward.

Corporate power must be tamed at home and through their international operations and supply chains.  It is working people, together, who hold the key to a future of common and sustainable prosperity. Continue reading

Sherpa Union Leader Killed in Everest Avalanche


Sherpa Dorje Khatri

Dorje Khatri, Sherpa union leader plants ICTU flag on Everest

(18 April 2014)  Nepalese Sherpa Dorje Khatri, leader of Nepal’s trade union of Sherpas and a committed defender of the environment, was reportedly amongst 12 people killed in one of the worst disasters on Mount Everest ever recorded.  In 2011 Khatri planted the ITUC flag atop the peak of Everest as part of global mobilisation by unions pushing for action on climate change leading up to the Durban Climate Summit, which he attended.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary said, “Dorje Khatri has left an indelible footprint as a man committed to the wellbeing of others, and an activist on the frontline of climate action.  We are devastated by the loss of this gentle but determined leader, one of the very elite of mountain climbers, and those who lost their lives with him.”

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