Workers Uniting, the global union of the United Steelworkers (USW) in North America and Unite the union in the UK and Ireland, condemns the Canada and European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) which is to be “initialled” on 26th September 2014.
The official text of the agreement has not been made public, but it was leaked in August.
It is clear that the fundamental concerns raised by the trade union movement have been ignored by the CETA negotiators:
■ Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS): The Canada-EU agreement will allow multinational corporations to sue governments, in secret tribunals, to challenge regulations that protect health and safety workers’ rights and the environment. Canada has been sued more than 20 times under a similar provision in Nafta and has been forced to pay over $150 million to corporations.
“ISDS is bad news for Canada,” said USW Canadian national director Ken Neumann. “Under Nafta we currently face $6 billion in lawsuits from American multinationals. If CETA is approved, that number will increase exponentially.”
■ Public Services: CETA interferes with the right of governments to regulate in the public interest, protect public services, or create new public programs, giving a green light to auctioning off public services including transportation, education and health care.
“The Tory government in the UK is hell-bent on privatising our National Health Service,” says Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, “if that happens, CETA locks in the privatisation: If a Labour government reverses it, then the private companies can sue the government for damages. We would no longer have democratic control over our economy or our public policies.”
■ Immigration: CETA will allow essentially unlimited entry to temporary foreign workers with a university degree or equivalent, with no protections of their rights. “We are already seeing massive exploitation of temporary foreign workers in the financial and mining industries,” said Neumann. “This cynical move threatens the future of Canada’s young workers.”
■ Labour Rights: CETA ignores a fundamental trade union demand that labour rights violations be subject to the same dispute settlement mechanisms as commercial conflicts. Labour rights must be enforced by an independent, timely and transparent complaints process.
“CETA sets a terrible precedent for future trade agreements, especially the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between Europe and the US,” said USW international president Leo W. Gerard.
“In addition to the deficiencies we have cited in the CETA – which will likely be replicated in the TTIP – the attacks on labour rights in the US threaten the living standards of European and Canadian workers,” Gerard said.
“Rather than weakening these rights and exporting lower American standards through secret trade deals, we need to look at how to expand European mechanisms to protect workers’ rights and promote worker involvement in companies.”