Greenpeace Leaks Secret EU – JEFTA Trade Deal Info

From Greenpeace media release. Thanks to Ben Davis at United Steelworkers.

Greenpeace Netherlands has released 205 pages of previously undisclosed chapters from secret talks for an EU-Japan trade agreement (known as JEFTA). Greater public access to JEFTA negotiating documents is good for democracy and will enable more balanced and transparent public participation by experts, politicians, civil society and the media. The European Commission has itself frequently highlighted the importance of democratic principles and transparency.

JEFTA negotiations were officially launched on 25th March 2013 and the EU Commission expects to conclude them in 2017. The leaked documents are dated between January 2016 and January 2017.

The original trade mandate from July 2012 has also been published online. The original documents have been retyped to protect our sources.

Whether you care about environmental issues, animal welfare, labour rights or internet privacy, you should be concerned about what is in these leaked documents. They underline the strong objections civil society and millions of people around the world have voiced: JEFTA is once again about a huge transfer of power from people to big business.

You can download all the documents below, as a whole and per chapter. For more background info on the content of these documents and JEFTA in general, please check here (pdf).

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Canadian unions celebrate repeal of anti-union legislation

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

Canada’s unions are celebrating the adoption of Bill C-4, legislation that repeals the former Conservative government’s controversial anti-union Bills 
C-377 and C-525.

“Our affiliates and labour activists across the country have organized and campaigned against these bills from the beginning, and this is their victory to celebrate,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff.

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau then promised that, if elected, he would repeal these bills and we are happy he has kept that promise,” he added.

The former Conservative government argued Bill C-377 was about union transparency, but experts from across the spectrum agreed it was really about red tape that would have forced unions, their suppliers, and other businesses they work with to spend millions of dollars and thousands of hours producing and processing expense reports to be reviewed and filed – all at taxpayer expense.

Bill C-525 would have made it more difficult for workers in federally-regulated workplaces to join a union. It was opposed by labour relations experts, but was nonetheless passed into law by the Conservatives in December 2014.

Bill C-377 was opposed by everyone from the NHL Players’ Association to Conservative and Liberal senators, constitutional experts, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, the Canadian Bar Association, the insurance and mutual fund industry, seven provinces, and a long and diverse list of others in the business, financial, professional, legal, labour, and academic communities, private and public, federal and provincial.

Despite that opposition, the Conservatives used their Senate majority to pass the bill on June 30th, 2015.

“By passing Bill C-4, the federal government has demonstrated it understands the importance of fair labour relations, and the critical role unions play advancing rights for all Canadian workers,” said Yussuff.

“I want to thank everyone who opposed these bills over the years, in addition to both former minister MaryAnn Mihychuk for introducing Bill C-4 in January last year, and current labour minister Patty Hajdu for her Senate testimony in support of the bill. We are also grateful to Senator Diane Bellemare for shepherding it through the Red Chamber,” he added.

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ILO Convention 98 ratified: Canadain unions urge government to promote collective bargaining rights at home and abroad

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

Canada’s unions are celebrating the ratification of the International Labour Organization’s Convention 98, ‘The Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949′.

The Convention reinforces the right to collective bargaining and protects all workers from anti-union discrimination, including being forced to give up union membership in order to get a job, or job termination for participating in union activities.

“This is a long overdue and important step forward for Canadian labour relations and sends a strong message to the world,” said CLC president Hassan Yussuff. “By signing this convention, Canada is finally recognizing the crucial role that strong unions and collective bargaining rights play in reducing inequality and building stronger, fair and inclusive economies.”

Today’s ratification of Convention 98 means Canada has ratified all eight considered by ILO to be the minimum “enabling rights” people need to defend and improve their rights and conditions at work, and to work in freedom and dignity.

Canada’s unions have been working for ratification for decades, but since 1949 and until now, successive Canadian governments have refused. Canada is the 165th country to ratify. The United States, Mexico, and 20 other countries have yet to ratify.

“By ratifying Co98, Canada is committing not just to respect collective bargaining rights, but to promote and uphold them abroad and at home,” said Yussuff. “This means encouraging and supporting provincial and territorial governments to find negotiated solutions to disputes rather than overriding collective bargaining rights with draconian measures like back-to-work legislation,” he added.

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French President To Use Holiday Period To Change Labour Laws

By Tony Burke

The new French President Emmanuel Macron has said he intends to reform France’s labour laws before the end of this summer after meeting unions and telling them he ‘intends to act swiftly’.

Macron warned during his presidential campaign that he planned to ‘fast-track’ legislation through use of ‘executive decrees’.

Unions had urged the government to take more time to discuss reforms which are aimed at reducing employment rights and giving France more neo-liberal labour laws which will reduce France’s strong workers protection.

Workers are protected under a powerful 3000 page labour code and although only around 7% of workers are union members, unions play a powwerful role in employment relations and companies and are normally able to mobilise mass demonstrations and strikes which are widely supported by workers.

But Macron’s prime minister says they intend to pass the reforms during the long French summer holidays when factories shutdown and many workers disperse to take upto three weeks off work.

Macron is aiming to use the break to undermine the unions ability to organise against the legislation.

Strikes and a rebellion in parliament were two factors that stopped the previous government’s attempts to introduce similar reforms.

Macron was a minister in that government between 2014 and 2016 before he quit to launch his presidential bid.

In a document released on Tuesday, the government broadly stuck to measures contained in Macron’s campaign manifesto including the capping of compensation awards in unfair dismissal cases.

Two of the biggest union federations appeared willing to engage in talks with the government. “I don’t think the unions will want to make a snap judgment since we only just got this letter from the government,” Laurent Berger of the moderate CFDT union said on French TV. The smaller FO union said the reform plan contained both positive and negative points.

Phillippe Martinez, leader of the French CGT union confederation

But the more powerful left wing CGT union lead by Phillippe Martinez which includes many transport and manufacturing workers and who take the lead in mobilzastion said it disagreed with the reforms and called on workers to protest over the coming days and weeks. Martinez said after meeting Macron he was looking for a “loyal” negotiation between the government and the unions, signalling Macron’s agenda  might not be as quick as the President would like.

A key issue is pensions where Macron has said he wants to merge 37 pension systems into one, including the workers pensions at the state-owned EDF utility or SNCF railway company.

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Wilbur Ross Breaths Life Into TTIP

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has told US media that the US – EU trade deal TTIP could be revived.

Ross said that whilst the US withdrew from the USA – Pacific Rim deal known as TPP he is open to continuing talks on a proposed trade deal with the European Union despite a frosty atmosphere being developed by Trump towards Merkel – and vice versa.

“It’s no mistake that, while we withdrew from TPP – we did not withdraw from TTIP,” Ross said. Talks around the proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership were put on hold after Trump’s election last year.

“The EU is one of our largest trading partners, and any negotiations legally must be conducted at the EU level and not with individual nations,” Ross said. “Thus, it makes sense to continue TTIP negotiations and to work towards a solution that increases overall trade while reducing our trade deficit:.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. trade deficit with the EU in 2016 stood at $146.3 billion. So far in 2017, that deficit is at $32.1 billion.

Ross’ comments come less than a week after his meeting with German Economics Minister Brigitte Zypries, who told a German newspaper, “It is not likely the U.S. will resume negotiations over TTIP.”

Quite where this will leave the Brexit bound UK is anyone’s guess – probably on the outside looking in – or as Obama told the UK during the referedum “at the back of the line”.

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CTUF Response To Taylor Review On Zero Hours

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Brexit Rights Bonfire? Poll Shows Bosses Want Workers Rights Too.

By Ryan Fletcher, May 4th, 2017 From UniteLive.

A majority of employers do not want a “Brexit bonfire” of employment rights and are in favour of parental leave, working time regulations and the minimum wage, a major new survey has found.

More than 500 organisations gave their support to 28 areas of employment law, including unfair dismissal legislation and rights for agency workers.

The results contradict the views of Tory Brexiteers, such as international trade minister Liam Fox, who has said “it is too difficult to hire and fire” and that “it is intellectually unsustainable to believe that workplace rights should remain untouchable.”

The survey – conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Lewis Silkin employment law firm – asked employers whether they think the UK’s employment rights, including EU originated legislation, are necessary or not.

More than 90 per cent of employers asked support unfair dismissal laws, 87 percent back the minimum wage, 82 percent are in favour of parental rights, while 74 percent believe working time regulations are needed and 75 percent want agency worker laws.

CIPD employment adviser, Rachel Suff, said claims that EU “red tape” is holding back businesses were simply not true.

“While much has been written about the need to roll back important aspects of our employment law framework to free businesses of red tape, it is clear that businesses themselves recognise the value of employment protection,” said Suff.

“Many of these regulations exist to protect workers against exploitation, ensure they are paid a fair wage and prevent discrimination in the workplace and can help improve people management practices.

“Even the more controversial aspects of employment law, such as the working time regulations, have broad support from UK businesses.”

Prime minister Theresa May has said that all existing employment rights deriving from the EU, including such measures as the working time directive, will be transferred over to UK law using the Great Repeal Bill, with the government retaining the right to modify at some later stage.

However, many are concerned that the Tories will use the so called Henry VIII clauses – which allow government to change legislation without parliamentary oversight – contained in the bill to roll back rights.

Suff called for caution over workers’ rights during Brexit, saying “it is vital that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater by making sweeping changes to employment legislation that businesses may not want.”

Unite assistant general secretary for legal, Howard Beckett, said it was vital that whichever government takes power after June 8 ensures that employment rights are retained and protected.

“The most basic of employment rights have been achieved through membership of the EU. Protection from discrimination in the workplace, the right to be paid during your holidays, rights as to the length of a working week and protection at times of redundancy,” said Beckett.

“This excellent piece of research confirms that good employers understand the importance of employment rights and that it is only bad employers who would seek a bonfire of employment rights following Brexit. The same thing applies to government and whoever takes office after the election must protect, maintain and further workers’ rights if they are to serve the interests of the nation.”

 

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LABOUR’S WORKERS CHARTER

LABOUR’S WORKERS CHARTER

  • Give all workers equal rights from day one, whether part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent – so that all workers have the same rights and protections whatever kind of job they have.
  • Ban zero hours contracts – so that every worker gets a guaranteed number of hours each week.
  • Ensure that any employer wishing to recruit labour from abroad does not undercut workers at home – because it causes divisions when one workforce is used against another.
  • Repeal the Trade Union Act and roll out sectoral collective bargaining – because the most effective way to maintain good rights at work is through a trade union.
  • Guarantee trade unions a right to access workplaces – so that unions can speak to members and potential members.
  • Introduce four new Bank Holidays – we’ll bring our country together with new holidays to mark our four national patron saints’ days, so that workers in Britain get the same proper breaks as in other countries.
  • Raise the minimum wage to the level of the living wage (expected to be at least £10 per hour by 2020) – so that no one in work gets poverty pay.
  • End the public sector pay cap – because public sector wages have fallen and our public sector workers deserve a pay rise.
  • Amend the takeover code to ensure every takeover proposal has a clear plan in place to protect workers and pensioners – because workers shouldn’t suffer when a company is sold.
  • Roll out maximum pay ratios – of 20:1 in the public sector and companies bidding for public contracts – because it cannot be right that wages at the top keep rising while everyone else’s stagnates.
  • Ban unpaid internships – because it’s not fair for some to get a leg up when others can’t afford to.
  • Enforce all workers’ rights to trade union representation at work – so that all workers can be supported when negotiating with their employer.
  • Abolish employment tribunal fees – so that people have access to justice.
  • Double paid paternity leave to four weeks and increase paternity pay – because fathers are parents too and deserve to spend more time with their new babies.
  • Strengthen protections for women against unfair redundancy – because no one should be penalised for having children.
  • Hold a public inquiry into blacklisting – to ensure that blacklisting truly becomes and remains a thing of the past.
  • Give equalities reps statutory rights – so they have time to protect workers from discrimination.
  • Reinstate protection against third party harassment – because everyone deserves to be safe at work
  • Use public spending power to drive up standards, including only awarding public contracts to companies which recognise trade unions.
  • Introduce a civil enforcement system to ensure compliance with gender pay auditing– so that all workers have fair access to employment and promotion opportunities and are treated fairly at work.

 

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Taylor Review To Propose Pay Boost For Zero Hours?

Matthew Talor – leading government review into employment practices

The Government review which is looking at “if employment regulation and practices are keeping pace with the changing world of work” lead by Matthew Taylor, Tony Blair’s former head of policy could propose that employers pay a ‘premium wage’ on zero-hours contracts’ to discourage ‘lazy employers’ from excessive use of zero hours, according to an interview with Taylor in the Financial Times on April 14th.

“The problem in the labour market is not security of work, it’s security of income,” Taylor, said in the interview.

Taylor was appointed by Theresa May in October 2016 to lead an independent review into rise of self-employment; the ‘gig economy’ and zero-hours contracts.

Taylor told the FT he wanted to “discourage employers from forcing workers to accept new burdens that were once shouldered by businesses – including companies having to pay a premium on the minimum wage for hours not guaranteed in advance. It would not apply to workers who choose their hours”.

Taylor said: “We’ve been hearing about people in the social care sector who are told ‘be ready to leave the house at 7am in the morning’, then a phone call comes to say – no we haven’t any work for you today”.

Taylor says he believes that if employers were made to pay a higher rate for every “non-guaranteed” hour the person had to work, they would be incentivised to guarantee more hours in advance.

“I think we can encourage employers to be a bit less lazy about transferring risk, even if it means an employer offers 15 hours a week rather than one hour, at least that’s 15 hours that I can know I’m going to be able to pay my mortgage.”

But don’t hold your breath – he stressed the idea was only a possibility and was still ‘up for debate’. The CBI said it was vital that the success of the minimum wage was not “put at risk by complexity or the unintended consequences  – of trying to re-shape employment contracts using a wage rate”.

Taylor and the three members of his panel are halfway through a series of regional visits across the UK, where they are meeting employers, unions, experts and workers in town-hall style events.

They will publish their recommendations in mid-June. The government will then respond.

The FT gives an account of one meeting in Cardiff : “Over the course of the next two hours, their debate gave a taste of the wide-ranging and complex issues on Mr Taylor’s plate: a supply teacher complained she was earning half what she should be; a Deliveroo employee said couriers did not want to lose their flexibility; a trade unionist had a spat with the leader of a recruitment trade body over a wrinkle in employment law relating to agency workers’ pay, which is known as the “Swedish derogation”.

Taylor, the chief executive of the RSA — the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce — is described by the FT as a “savvy political operator who led the Number 10 policy unit for several years under Blair. He has seen independent reviews fail in the past, their policy recommendations left to languish on dusty shelves. As a result, he wants to build support for the Taylor Review before it is published. Next month, he will launch a national campaign to encourage people to discuss the notion “good work” and what it means to them. “If people think good work is impossible, or they think it’s incompatible with business competitiveness, then we’re in trouble,” he said. “So I want to have that conversation and win that argument.”

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China is repurposing TPP to build an even bigger and more secretive trade deal

By Tony Burke

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was dubbed ‘the biggest trade deal you have never heard of’ because it was being negotiated behind closed doors with little public information available.

Covering twelve ‘Pacific Rim’ countries, trade unions in the USA, Australia and New Zealand campaigned against the TPP trade agreement.

President Barack Obama tried to push TPP through the US Congress with a ‘fast track’ process that would have left elected politicians with no opportunity to scrutinise the deal line by line. Had Obama got the deal on the floor of Congress it would have been a ‘take it or leave it deal’.

Donald Trump, during his campaign, opposed the TPP trade agreement — after witnessing the massive opposition from trade unions and blue collar workers, hit hard by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the USA, which saw good jobs in manufacturing sucked south to free trade, low tax areas of Mexico. As president he quickly sunk the deal.

Trump also promised to ‘tear up’ NAFTA and renegotiate it. Current reports say he intends to ‘tinker round the edges’ of the deal rather than a wholesale re-negotiation.

But despite the TPP’s demise, global corporations and neoliberal governments seem intent on reviving trade deals that are bad for workers, bad for jobs and great for global corporations.

The European Union is currently rushing to negotiate a trade deal with Japan known as JEFTA.

Talks have been going on secretly since March 2013 with the EU intent on pushing ahead to get a deal signed by the end of the year – despite misgivings in Japan.

Now it appears the next in line is another mega-trade deal — bigger and more secretive than before — the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

RCEP has been described as China’s answer to the TPP, involving all ten ASEAN (Association of South Eastern Nations) countries — Brunei; Cambodia; Indonesia; Laos; Malaysia; Myanmar; Phillipines; Singapore; Thailand; Vietnam plus candidate countries Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. It also incorporates ASEAN Plus Three — China, Japan and South Korea, and India, Australia and New Zealand.

Negotiations are now in their fourth year and the aim is also to finalise the agreement by the end of 2017.

If the deal goes ahead, the RCEP would cover half the world’s population. Because of the secrecy little is known about the RCEP text.

But leaked documents show that the failed TPP is the basis for RCEP.

Some of the most controversial clauses of the TPP are proposed in RCEP, including the rights for corporations to sue governments though secret ISDS courts and the extension of monopoly rights for pharmaceutical companies to charge higher prices for medicines.

Reports suggest that RCEP could also increase the numbers of temporary migrant workers, vunerable to exploitation — without testing or providing support for the local and national labour market.

These clauses come straight from TPP and have little to do with free trade. It’s all about extending corporate power at the expense of working people.

But it appears that India and some ASEAN countries are resisting the worst of these clauses.

Andrew Dettmer, the National President of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, commenting on RCEP said:

“The secrecy surrounding TPP has been reproduced around the RCEP. From Obama’s pivot into Asia, we now have China’s attempt to dominate trade throughout the Asian region. We had become used to the farcical approach to public consultation under the TPP. Now, with the RCEP, the 20 or so minutes dedicated to it by the Australian government seem like a luxury by comparison.

“RCEP has the same ISDS provisions. Even worse the minimal labour rights provisions under TPP appear to be even more watered down in RCEP.

“We had the benefit of Wikileaks last time around with the TPP. Now, without any further information, the likelihood is that RCEP will be agreed and implemented before any substantial public scrutiny is possible.

“And we know workers’ interests will be a long way down any consideration by governments in our region.”

 This blog was first published on Left Foot Forward

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