The Trans Pacific Trade Agreement – Chapter 19 – Labour Laws

By Tony Burke, Chair of the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom

Here is a very interesting YouTube clip which looks at the Labour Chapter contained in the new TPP Trade Agreement which will go before the US Congress for ratification in 2016.

Trade unions and other campiagning groups have been critical of the TPP deal and the AFL-CIO and unions in the USA is busy scrutinising the agreement’s Chapter 19 on Labour standards.

The Obama administration says that Chapter 19 attempts to address union concerns by distinguishing TPP’s labour provisions from what the his administration says are the weak labour standards in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other free trade agreements.Obama’s administration sys there has been a “sea change” from NAFTA and other free trade agreements, and claims that the TPP establishes “a new global norm for labour rights” backed up by dispute settlement procedures and trade sanctions.

According to the Obama administration the TPP requires the 12 signatory countries to ‘adopt and maintain fundamental labour rights and enforceable labour laws as recognised by the International Labor Organization (ILO)’.

All of these rights and laws are “fully enforceable” and backed by sanctions.That is, all signatory countries must afford their workers the rights set forth in the ILO’s “fundamental human rights” standards, including: freedom of association, the right to bargain collectively, the elimination of forced labor, abolition of child labour, and freedom from discrimination in employment.The TPP also requires signatory countries to adopt and maintain laws on “acceptable conditions of work” including minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational health and safety.

Signatory countries also commit not to weaken employment laws in export processing zones.The AFL-CIO has already announced plans to defeat the TPP.  Of course, the TPP obligates the United States, as a signatory, to commit to “acceptable” labour standards as well – including ratification of ILO conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining rights broader than those contained in current U.S. labour laws.

As the USA has not ratiified ILO Conventions on these issues it remains to be seen if this just ‘spin’ being put on the labour chapter.

We will publish more responses from the trade union movement as we get them.

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