CETA trade talks collapse as Canada’s Freeland walks

Chrystia Freeland - Canada's Trade Minister - headed back to Canada after trade deal collapse.

Chrystia Freeland – Canada’s Trade Minister – headed back to Canada after trade deal collapse.

Negotiations to save the Canada – EU trade deal known as CETA collapsed today when Canadian International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland walked from talks with the regional government of Wallonia in Belgium after discussion with Canada’s PM Justin Tredeau.

Wallonia has been blocking the deal due to be signed off next week.

An emotional Freeland said: “Canada worked really hard, and me personally, I worked very hard. It’s become evident for me, for Canada, that the European Union isn’t capable now to have an international treaty even with a country that has very European values like Canada. And even with a country so nice, with a lot of patience like Canada. I’ve worked very, very hard, but I think it’s impossible,” the minister said, reflecting on the months of travel and lobbying across Europe she’s invested personally in trying to garner enough support.

Earlier, Paul Magnette, the president of the Belgian region of Wallonia, briefed his regional parliament, saying that although talks were productive, difficulties remain but he was not prepared to reverse the decision to reject CETA.

“We made new significant progress, especially on the agriculture issues, but difficulties remain, specifically on the symbolic issue of arbitration, which is politically extremely important,” he said in French.

Belgium’s constitution gives regional governments a role in trade agreements, has now ended up with an effective veto over a trade deal that impacts the entire continental trading block of over 500 million.

“After consideration, the modifications are not enough. We need to go deeper on other issues such as the public services, and some definitions need to be more accurate, but the discussion we had with the Canadians was very constructive,” he said.

On Thursday, the president of the European Union, Donald Tusk, offered the blunt assessment that if this hard-fought deal with a progressive partner like Canada couldn’t move ahead, the EU’s credibility as a negotiator of any free trade deal in the future was in doubt.

It is not immediately clear exactly what compromises or modifications Canada had offered or agreed but additional reservations to signing the agreement from Romania and Bulgaria have also not been lifted, pending resolution of a long-standing visa dispute.

The agreement as negotiated goes far beyond tariffs – eventually opening government procurement which may provide opportunities for Canadian bidders in European jurisdictions.

Common regulatory standards are meant to facilitate the ramped-up trade in goods and services.

The controversial foreign investor arbitration measures, already reworked earlier this year, appear likely to be put on hold pending a court decision expected next spring and full ratification by over 30 national and sub-national legislatures across Europe.

An unnamed EU spokesperson said that it was not the end of the matter but declined to be name in fear of making matters worse.

UK media are currently playing up the fact that Wallonia is a region of 3.5 million people compared to the rest of the EU and Canada.

However, avid followers of the CETA including the CTUF talks have warned this was likely to happen. The Belgium regions are determind to stand their ground and there is popular support against this trade deal, TTIP and TiSA because of the lack of transparency and the widespread opposition to the secret courts allowed under the ISDS clauses, the lack of strong support for labour rights and the clear perception that these deals are designed to support multi-national corporations and not citizens of individual countries.


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Labour’s Melanie Onn : Workers’ Rights (Maintenance of EU Standards) Bill

Labour MP Melanie Onn

Labour MP Melanie Onn

Theresa May announced last month that the Government will look to pass a Great Repeal Bill, which will replace the European Communities Act once Britain has left the EU. That is necessary – the act needs to be repealed for us to leave the EU, but because numerous laws have been passed through the ECA, to repeal it without replacement would cause those laws to fall away.

For workers’ rights, this would mean some of the most fundamental protections would be scrapped, including equal rights for part-time and agency workers; the right to annual and parental leave; and the protection of employment upon the transfer of a business or outsourcing of services. But the bill will still weaken those rights, and scrap others.

According to the House of Commons library, the Great Repeal Act would likely secure all legislation passed through the ECA in the form it currently exists- namely, secondary legislation, which can be changed through what’s called a statutory instrument (SI). Because SIs don’t need to be debated or voted on in parliament, this Bill would give this, and any future government the ability to amend or repeal hard-won rights without even giving a say to MPs.

At Tory conference last month the prime minister said: “Existing workers’
rights will continue to be guaranteed in law”. However, there appears to be disagreement in her Cabinet. On the same day as Theresa May’s speech, Chris Grayling told the press that the Government only wanted to keep measures on workers’ rights. He, along with several other Cabinet members, are on record calling for the scrapping—or in one case, halving— of employment protections.

Whatever the intentions of this particular government, the fact is that by maintaining employment protections in the weakest form of legislation, while removing Britain from the common floor of minimum rights ensured by the EU, May’s Great Repeal Bill will leave workers’ rights hanging by a thread.

The other way in which the European Union has helped to secure and protect the rights of British workers is through the courts. A huge number of rulings from the Court of Justice of the European Union protect employees in our country. For example, the requirement for overtime and commission payments to count towards holiday pay is because of a European court ruling, as is the requirement to pay care workers a full wage for sleep-in shifts.

When talking about the Great Repeal Bill, Grayling said that “decisions made by the European Court of Justice on the United Kingdom will cease to apply, so that is one thing that will change.” So while some workers’ rights will be made more vulnerable, those derived from the courts will effectively be repealed, and it will be left up to British judges to decide whether to maintain them. It certainly does not feel like the sovereignty of Parliament is being restored: it is merely taking back control from one unelected judiciary and giving it to another unelected judiciary. It is important to note that European courts in recent years have been far more progressive than rulings in British courts, which have tended to favour employers.

If May was serious about protecting existing workers’ rights, she would be securing all of them in the strongest form of UK legislation.

That is exactly what my Workers’ Rights (Maintenance of EU Standards) Bill would do. I’m not holding my breath however on whether the Tories instruct their MPs to vote for it.

Melanie Onn is MP for Great Grimsby. This blog was first published on Labour List on October 20th

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Leaked TiSA Documents Show Corporate Power Grab

tisa-logo14 October 2016 

Newly published leaked documents from the top secret Trade in Services (TISA) negotiations reveal the wide scope of the deregulatory agenda and attack on democratic governance at the heart of the negotiations.

The TISA negotiations currently involve 23 countries calling themselves “The really good friends of services”, with a rich core including the US, EU, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and South Korea driving the process. The goal is to bring the agreement into the WTO, where the rules would eventually become binding on all members.

The latest leaks detail the European Union “requests” to Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mauritius, Mexico, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Taiwan and Turkey.  They are clothed in technical language which can obscure their implications and provide only a partial window into the negotiating process, because so many other negotiating texts remain under lock and key. But read in conjunction with the other TISA documents which are now publicly accessible, they highlight the wide-ranging threat to governments’ capacity to regulate in the public interest to defend workers, citizens and the environment.

The EU demands include requests to eliminate restrictions on transnational service activity and investment at every level down to the local, which denies governments at all levels the ability to regulate services in order to pursue development or other policy goals. The demands go well beyond current WTO rules in limiting governments’ capacity to impose performance requirements (e.g. local content, employment, training or technology transfer) on foreign investors.

The previously leaked draft text on financial services contains provisions which would seriously restrict efforts to regulate the crisis-prone financial sector through new laws or regulations aiming to reduce volatility and encourage productive investment rather than speculation. And because the treaty process operates on a ‘negative list’ basis, TISA potentially opens up all services to transnational investors with few or no conditions imposed.

“The latest revelations from the TISA negotiations are no surprise”, said IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald. “The negotiating agendas of the countries driving the process have been clear from the start, and are echoed in TISA’s flanking treaties TPP, TTIP and CETA. It’s time to halt the negotiations, publish the secret texts and ensure the widest possible public debate to expose the full extent of the threat these treaties pose to democracy and the labour movement.”

A joint statement from international trade union organizations including the IUF calling for a halt to the negotiations and full publication of the negotiating texts is available here

First published on IUF News


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Delivering Rights In The Modern World Of Work

joy-johnson-shadowBy Joy Johnson, UNITE Political Team

14 October 2016

Become a Deliveroo rider and “pick up a ton of perks to sweeten the deal, like discounts with Apple and Vue Cinema on top of your self-employed sixteen pound an hour depending on location”. Click on Deliveroo, the online restaurant delivery service website, and this is what the platform offers as inducements to entice young, fit “superstar cycle and scooter riders” to join the ‘Roo’.

Absent from the flimflam of ‘perks’ and Deliveroo’s mission promising ‘amazing’ food are any rights. Nor would you see any guarantees for the superstar riders.

So, no guaranteed hours. No guaranteed wages. No guaranteed pension. No sick leave. No holiday pay. No workers’ rights. Welcome to today’s world of work, where the employer can deny any responsibility by saying it just advertises ‘opportunities’ for self-employed people.

Deliveroo is merely one platform among others that appeals to would-be customers with the promise that within thirty minutes from ‘app to tap’ they can indulge in their favourite food delivered to their door. We could ask: what is going on in our heads? We lap up The Great British Bake Off in our droves, yet on the streets of London and other major cities, so called ‘superstar riders’ weave their bicycles through traffic with meals in a box on their backs? It’s a sight that to all intent and purposes describes these cyclists not so much as ‘superstars riders’ as modern day ‘packhorses’ regularly carrying on their backs food and bottles that can weigh around fifteen to twenty kilograms.

We’ve become used to workers on zero hours being billed as flexible when in essence it is a form of exploitation reminiscent of workers in the docks and lump labour on construction site. Now there is a new and hip expression to disguise the reality of precarious working governed by platforms with the invitation to – ‘tap the app’ – and that is the ‘gig economy’.

Platforms have taken precarious working to another level and it is best summed up by Unite as ‘a technological gloss on a very old problem’.

When the Conservatives boast that we have an employment bonanza with the highest levels of employment ever, there is no regard to the quality of employment and the impact on our society of poor employment. With 4.8 million UK self-employed this form of work has been the fastest growing since the recession – but there is little or no evidence on how much is bogus or lack of alternatives.

And when they brag that the 900,000 workers on zero hours and 1.7 million in temporary work have made the Conservative Party the Party of full employment, well tell that to those who can’t plan their futures because they have no idea whether they will be able to pay the next bill.

We are told that this way of working is now irreversible. According to the World Economic Forum over five million jobs will be lost by 2020 as a result of robotic and technological change.

Are we all Luddites now if we regard this progress as a dystopian future?

Or do we determine to make the gig economy work for working people? Around six million people are not covered by workers’ rights that we have in the past taken for granted but which of course were hard won by trade unions.

The gig economy seemingly doesn’t have provision for trade unions. Has it become too late for the Institute of Employment Rights’ Manifesto for Labour Law that has as its central theme collective bargaining with the proviso that without the right to strike it becomes collective begging?

The answer must be no. Workers in the gig economy have as much right to rights as we all do. It is also apparent that workers themselves want to organise and act as a collective. They know how easily they can be picked off. Over the last few months, workers from Uber and Deliveroo have taken strike action over pay and working conditions.

While it may seem that we are powerless in the face of this global digital onslaught, we aren’t.

New Zealand earlier this year passed legislation banning zero hours. They also have a law allowing trade unions to speak to workers at their place of work or electronically under a ‘right to access’. This right when enforced must be without loss of pay. Nor can employers subvert access by using common law and trespass to decline access to private property.

Unite’s Assistant General Secretary, Steve Turner and Unite organiser, Luke Primarollo when they gave evidence to the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee scored a major victory likening Sports Direct’s Shirebrook’s warehouse to a Victorian work house with its extensive use of penalties, agency labour to avoid employers obligations, and widespread use of zero hours.

Jeremy Corbyn is following in the footsteps of the late John Smith who, addressing the 1993 Labour Party conference, pledged:

“Our charter of employment rights will give all working people basic rights that will come into force from the first day of their employment. We will give the same legal rights to every worker, part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent.

“We will give every working man and woman the right to protection against unfair dismissal, and access to health and safety protection. And every worker will have the right to join a trade union and have the right to union recognition.”

Following Jeremy’s re-election as Labour leader the NEC passed his ten policy pledges including his pledge on workers’ rights from day one.

“We will give people stronger employment rights from day one in a job, end exploitative zero hour contracts and create new sectoral collective bargaining rights. We will strengthen working people’s representation at work and the ability of trade unions to organise so that working people have a real voice at work. And we will put the defence of social and employment rights, as well as action against undercutting of pay and conditions through the exploitation of migrant labour, at the centre of the Brexit negotiations agenda for a new relationship with Europe.”

Pursuing collective bargaining with the right to strike is a central tenet of any employment rights agenda. Exploitation is exploitation whenever, and wherever, it occurs. In this new world of work, where workers are increasingly individualised, when work is insecure, and when large numbers are potentially facing a future without work, it may leave the impression that trade unions are no longer relevant. No, they are needed more than ever.

It is important, however, that extolling the virtues of collective bargaining embraces the riders of Deliveroo, as well as industrial workers, in large scale trade union organised work places.

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CETA: Latest Documents To Download.

The Effect of an Interpretative Declaration by Canada and EU Commission (An opinion prepared for the Council of Canadians) – Click here to download

Resolution of the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB) Executive Board on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) – Click here to download.

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South Korea: Release Jailed Trade Unionists, Respect Workers’ Rights

3190The assault on workers’ rights in South Korea is intensifying, with more than 20 trade union leaders and members now imprisoned including seven KCTU leaders and officials namely KCTU President Han Sang-gyun, KPTU vice president Cho, Sung-deok and KPCWU president Lee, Jong-hwa. President Park Guen-hye’s government has been throwing people into prison simply for standing up for workers’ rights.

Currently, the strike of public sector workers against the regressive labour reform and performance based pay system was declared ‘illegal’ and nine leaders of Korean Railway Workers Union are accused for the notorious ‘obstruction of business’.

 In order to end the strike, the government is seeking ’emergency arbitration’, a practice denounced by the ILO as infringement of freedom of association. The self-employed truck drivers also face criminal and civil charges for a strike they planned.

While the focus of international protest has been mostly on the government itself, the role of Korean business, and especially the shadowy Chaebol conglomerates which dominate the national economy, is coming under the spotlight.

 A new ITUC/IndustriALL report on Samsung details the lengths to which some Korean employers will go to bust unions and repress workers’ rights inside Korea and in international supply chains.
President Park will have to step down at the end of her term in December 2017, and it is crucial to keep up the pressure to break the stranglehold that a few corporations have over the state.

 A new President should mean a new start for Korea, one where fundamental rights, economic security and safe work for ordinary people are the order of the day. In the coming weeks and months, every bit of pressure on the current regime of President Park will make it that much harder for corporate greed to maintain its grip on one of the world’s most significant economies.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and Public Services International (PSI) are calling for unions to picket outside South Korean embassies on 12 October to urgently protest against government repression of trade unions in South Korea.


The ITF is organising a picket of the South Korean embassy at 60 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6AJ between 12.30 and 13.30 on Wednesday 12 October. Please join us there to take a message of defiance from the Korean unionists to their government and to express your solidarity with them. Please bring your union banners with you.

Sign the petition by clicking here.

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Unions Welcome Australian High Court Decision On Offshore Oil & Gas Workers Visas


ITF President and MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin

The International Transport Workers’ Federation has welcomed a decision by Australia’s High Court to rule invalid a decision by the Australian Conservative government to exempt workers on vessels in the multi-billion dollar offshore oil and gas industry from domestic visa requirements.

The exemption, granted by the Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, in December 2015 was overturned by the High Court today following a case lodged by the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Australian Maritime Officers Union (AMOU).

The long-running saga was thwarted first by the Australian Senate in July 2014 and then the full federal court in March 2015. Today’s decision in the High Court was unanimous.

ITF President and MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said: “Bringing in often exploited foreign workers is a dangerous attack on the rights and safe working conditions of seafarers, regardless of their nationality.

“The ITF welcomes the decision which helps rehabilitate Australia’s international reputation for adversarial and destructive attacks on the trade union movement.

“The offshore industry in any country’s territory must be the domain of the national workforce as it involves the development of that country’s sovereign and public wealth.”

ITF Maritime Coordinator Jacqueline Smith said: “It is clear that the failed legislation and subsequent circumvention by the Australian government that was rejected by the High Court today was partly driven by international hydrocarbon players including Chevron and Allseas.

“This is a great victory for the protection of workers rights in the offshore industry all over the world. 

AMOU President Tim Higgs said: “The Government has hugely overreached with these tricky legislative instruments. The Minister’s attempts to bypass existing laws and give unfettered work rights to non-Australian workers was always a terrible idea.”


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Public Wants Zero Hours Banned

Unite's Len McCluskey

Unite’s Len McCluskey

More than six in ten UK people (64 per cent) want zero hours contracts banned a new poll commissioned by Unite has revealed. It is also confirmed that most people (53 per cent) also feel that there are too few decent jobs in their area.

The call for a ban is backed by voters from both the Conservative (55 per cent) and Labour (71 per cent) parties.

Unite urged that a start be made by the government banning zero hours contracts which have left almost one million workers with no certainty in their earnings or their working life.

Unite also believes that the 41 per cent of those polled supporting a universal basic income, in contrast to the 33 per cent who do not, reveals that the public is looking for ways to address the insecurity associated with modern working life.

Unite led calls at this week’s Trades Union Congress for a wholesale reform in social security to reflect the serious social problems resulting when work does not pay.

Commenting Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “These findings reveal a disunited Britain and the scale of the task facing the prime minister who has vowed to govern not just for ‘a privileged few’.

“Fighting back against the scourge of insecure employment has to be top of her ‘to-do’ list. When it comes to measures to address economic and employment uncertainty there is widespread agreement on the one course of action that the government should take. It should bring forward plans now to make work pay in this country again, starting with banning zero hours contracts. If it can be done for the workers of New Zealand, it should be done for the workers of the UK.”

The union’s call comes as the Office of National Statistics recently revealed a 20 per cent jump in the use of these contracts in the last year alone.

Summary of the poll findings:

  • The majority of those polled (53 per cent) do not feel that there are enough secure, well-paid secure jobs in their area. Among those aged between 45-54 years of age, 62 per cent state that there are not enough decent jobs in their area. Four in ten of those polled (40 per cent) do say that they feel more optimistic for the future, compared to the 24 per cent who are pessimistic.
  • Between the generations, views differ with six in ten (60 per cent) of over 65 year olds polled stating that they are confident about the state of the economy, while 55 per cent of those aged 18-24 years are not.
  • Better off adults in social grades AB (35 per cent) and C1 (29 per cent) are more likely than those in grades C2 (22 per cent) and DE (20 per cent) to say that they are better off compared to this time last year.
  • The difference in outlook becomes more graphic between supporters of political parties. Nearly seven in ten (68 per cent) of Conservative voters feel confident about the economy, but only 28 per cent of Labour voters share that view. For Liberal Democrat and UKIP voters, the results were 39 per cent and 57 per cent respectively.
  • Among the population as a whole, only just over one quarter (27 per cent) feel better off than they were this time last year, but 25 per cent state that they feel worse off.
  • Only days after the Office for National Statistics revealed that the use of zero hours contracts (ZHCs) had leapt by 20 per cent in the past twelve months, 64 per cent of those polled want the government to ban these contracts, a move that attracts cross-party political support with 55 per cent of Conservative voters rising to 71 per cent of Labour supporters backing such action.
  • As an indication that the public understands that work is failing to pay in the UK, significantly, 41 per cent support replacing the existing welfare system with universal basic income compared to 33 per cent who oppose it.

Methodology Note: ComRes interviewed 2,004 GB adults online between 9 and 11 September 2016. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. Data were also weighted by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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Unison Backs Call For Orgreave Investigation

Unison has backed the call for an independent and thorough investigation into what really happened at the ‘Battle of Orgreave’ in South Yorkshire  on June 18th, 1984 during the miners’ strike.

Campaigners calling for an inquiry into the police handling of the Battle of Orgeave have welcomed reports an official review is set to be approved.

Reports suggest Home Secretary Amber Rudd wants an investigation that delivers ‘complete’ answers but will not ‘drag on’. Eports suggest this we be an ‘will be an official inquiry’, but it is yet to be decided what format it will take.

Campaigners who met with Rudd said they welcome the news.

Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham, meanwhile, has called on Mrs Rudd to confirm immediately if reports of an official inquiry are true.

The official version of events – put forward by the police – was that the miners were to blame for the violence that erupted that day, and that the police were acting in self-defence.

But unions have always known that wasn’t the real story. Miner were faced by 6,000 officers in riot gear, some on horse back – with dogs set on pickets.

This was not a standard police action, and the use of an overwhelming force, is an example of what Labour MP and historian Tristram Hunt called “a brutal example of legalised state violence”.

For years striking miners – standing up for their communities and their livelihoods were described as mindless thugs.

The allegations against the police are serious – including officers filing reports on arrests they didn’t carry out. All point towards a corrupt culture within the South Yorkshire police.

After the outcome of the Hillsborough inquiry earlier this year, Unison said it now time the force is also held to account for what happened in Orgreave.

This was not the only wrong doing perpetuated by the police against striking miners, but it is perhaps the clearest example of police targeting striking workers in a seemingly pre-meditated and politically motivated attack.

Unison said the time has come for justice to be served and for the truth to be heard, in full, at long last.

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McCluskey Calls For Outright Ban On Zero Hours Contracts

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey has called on the UK government to follow New Zealand’s lead in outlawing exploitative zero hours contracts as official figures showed a 20 per cent increase in the number of people saying they work on a zero hours basis as their main job.

The increase, up from 747,000 a year ago to just over 900,000, points to a world of work which is becoming increasingly insecure and an economy becoming ever more reliant on low paid precarious work warned Unite.

Commenting on the figures, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “This sharp rise in the numbers of people reliant on zero hours work points to an economy which is increasingly being built on precarious work with more and more workers not knowing from one week to the next whether they will be able to pay the bills.
“Since the Conservatives unleashed their austerity on working people in 2010, insecure, poorly rewarded work has risen three-fold. This is the real story of the Conservatives and their stewardship of the economy –  growing numbers of people trapped in the daily worry of not knowing if they will have work or can keep a decent roof over their family’s head.
“As New Zealand has shown governments do not have to sit on the sidelines when it comes to tackling exploitation. They can outlaw zero hours contracts.
“Prime minister Theresa May now needs to prove true to her word about supporting working people by setting out her plan to rid working people of the twin curses of insecurity and low paid work.
“Let’s see the UK government follow the lead of their counterparts in New Zealand and ban the use of zero hours contracts as part of a plan to halt the tide of insecure low paid work.”

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