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UK, Australian and New Zealand unions call for trade talks to benefit workers

TUC, ACTU and NZCTU publish joint statement on trade deal requirements to protect jobs and public services, and to raise global labour standards.

As the next round of trade talks between the UK and Australia begins today (Monday) , trade unions in the UK,  Australia, and New Zealand have come together to call for negotiations to prioritise decent jobs and the protection of workers’ rights and public services. 

In a joint statement, the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC), Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), and New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU) call for transparency and consultation with trade unions on the text of negotiations. 

The statement highlights the importance of a UK-EU trade deal that locks in the highest standards of workers’ rights. By preventing trade competition based on a race to the bottom on rights, it will benefit workers all over the world. 

The union bodies express concern about the Comprehensive and Transpacific Partnership (CPTPP), which the UK government has stated an intention to join.  CPTPP contains no protections for workers’ rights or public services. And it includes the notorious corporate ISDS court system that allows companies to sue governments for passing laws that threaten their profits.  

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: 

“Good trade deals improve the lives of working people. They protect jobs, create new employment and raise global labour standards.  

“There is already strong agreement between our nations’ workers on what’s needed for a good deal. If these shared goals are put at the heart of the talks, we can get agreements that will be welcomed by working families across the UK, Australia and New Zealand. 

“Strong workers’ rights must be a common thread linking all the trade deals our nations make. The deal the UK makes with the EU has consequences for Australia and New Zealand too. If it does not lock in high standards of workers’ rights, then the rights of their workers will come under pressure.  

"Trade deals must not be hijacked by the narrow interests of global corporations, or we will face a race to the bottom for workers’ rights. And public services like the NHS will be served up as cash cows, or asset stripping opportunities. To protect against this danger, the negotiations must be transparent, and the negotiating teams must consult unions.” 

ACTU President Michele O’Neil said: 

“The Covid-19 crisis has shown the importance of strong government support for local workers, and a robust and comprehensive set of rights for working people. Instead, this agreement has the potential to weaken the ability of our government to protect working people and expose workers to exploitation. 

“We need to end the system which allows governments to negotiate trade deals in secret and make sure that all deals put working people first. 

“Australian, UK and New Zealand unions have released a joint statement outlining what a trade deal between countries should look like, in order to protect workers’ rights, local industry, public services and national sovereignty. 

“An anti-worker trade deal will limit the ability of the Australian government to respond to the ongoing pandemic and economic crisis. We need strong government investment in reconstruction and local jobs and to strengthen the rights of all working people.” 

NZCTU President Richard Wagstaff said:  

“It is vital that all our international relationships reflect the reality that Covid-19 and the global financial crisis have graphically demonstrated.  

“These events have showed the importance of strong public services, of our health system, our need for greater self-reliance in medical supplies and other important goods and services, and the importance of preventing abuse of working people’s labour rights.  

“It’s vital this agreement protects and strengthens our public services and state-owned enterprises, enables us to develop our own industries, and has enforceable labour rights provisions.” 

Editors note

  • Full statement from TUC-ACTU-NZCTU: The full statement published by the union bodies is here: https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/2020-09/ACTU_NZCTU_TUC_State…
  • About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. It brings together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. It supports unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living. 
  • About ACTU: The Australian Council of Trade Unions is the peak body for Australian unions, made up of 38 affiliated unions who together represent about 1.8 million workers and their families. 
  • About NZCTU: The New Zealand Counci of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi brings together over 320,000 New Zealand union members in 27 affiliated unions. It is the united voice for working people and their families in New Zealand.

 

Original article link: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/uk-australian-and-new-zealand-unions-call-trade-talks-benefit-workers

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