12 December 2012
Unions ask the tough questions about the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement
Unions represented in Auckland for the 15th round of negotiations for the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) say that what they have observed leaves them highly concerned at the direction of the agreement.
“Many of the proposals would undermine good, well-paid jobs, public services, affordable medicines and public health, and our ability to make laws and regulations in the public interest. They would cut off options for the sustainable development of our economies. Instead the proposals give greater power to large corporations and fleet-footed investors who would have little interest in creating good jobs and improving social conditions,” said Bill Rosenberg, Policy Director at the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions.
“Government procurement, investment, intellectual property and financial services are just some of the areas where our sovereignty is up for grabs. And proposals to give corporations the right to sue governments which introduce good public policy give unions huge concerns. We support the Australian government in refusing to accept this provision,” says Bill Rosenberg.
“If the agreement goes ahead, unions are adamant that it must contain a labour chapter that gives strongly enforceable protection to workers. These must be based at a minimum on the core International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions,” says Mike Dolan, from the Teamsters Union which represents 1.4 million workers in the US and Canada.
Mike Dolan said “we met with labour chapter negotiators from many of the countries involved in the negotiations. Many aspects are still missing, not just ILO conventions. We need stronger rules to protect migrant workers from exploitation in host countries. We also need an institution to oversee the working of the chapter and monitor trends in labour conditions in the region. We have not seen evidence that the TPPA will contain improved processes to ensure complaints are effectively and efficiently dealt with.”
“Most importantly it is clear that some of the countries are still rejecting effective enforcement mechanisms. It will require political leadership to cut through these differences and attain an acceptable labour chapter,” Dolan said.
Andrew Dettmer, National President of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, expressed the unions’ deep concerns at the way the negotiations are being conducted. “Our talks on the labour chapter demonstrated the lack of transparency and democratic process in these negotiations”, he said.
“It is impossible to have a meaningful discussion about the merits and meaning of any complex legislation such as this without being able to see the draft text of the agreement. This is true of the labour chapter and it is true of the whole agreement. It is anti-democratic and archaic for international negotiations of such critically important matters to be carried out in such secrecy.”
“We know that many of the corporate beneficiaries of the agreement have much greater access to both text and negotiators than other members of our societies including unions. Governments should release the present state of the draft text of the agreement for public scrutiny before the next round,” said Dettmer.
The unions say they cannot support the TPPA if it continues in its current direction.