Workers’ rights must be protected when striking new US deal

We know that the US trade negotiators will have a huge impact on the way our country works.

For those of you who can – cast your minds back to the dark days of Thatcherism and what collective bargaining was like for many unions in those times.

Jobs were being lost at an alarming rate – similar to the current situation; technology was replacing traditional skills – but not at the alarming rate we have today and unions were focused on holding onto what we had.

The change to the economy back then meant a priority for unions was sometimes not just about getting an agreement that moved us forward. It was a desperate attempt to hold the line as employers sought to roll back past gains – on working time, holidays, sick pay and a good rate for the job – this was the era of concession bargaining.

So what is the similarity with today?

Well, when our International Trade Secretary eventually goes to meet the US Trade Representative and his negotiating team to open talks on a new UK–USA trade agreement, as Johnson’s government so desperately needs, like the employers in the 1980s, the USA will hold all the cards – and the UK will have little to bargain with.

We know that the US trade negotiators will have a huge impact on the way our country works. 

That shake of the hand could mean lower quality food, lower quality of health and safety at work, damaged union organisation, impacted collective bargaining and a further privatised healthcare system. 

A UK trade secretary will be forced to sign any deal with the US that will guarantee them access to the UK market at lower costs thereby undercutting the UK because of their low standards. In turn, this deal would sign away the ability of a potential Labour government to go against the deal by establishing a special quasi-court, an ISDS court, that will allow the US to seek compensation.

The Brexiteers said Brexit would be easy – countries would be banging at our door up to do deals with us. The reality is that out of the EU, Johnson and his Brextremist team will now have to sign anything to try to show they are correct.

We will be squeezed and as a result, we will be faced with a UK Government, who in order to fulfill the promise of quick trade deals, will have to look to attack working conditions – not just on working hours, holidays and social protection but also on minimum wages.

This is why the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom has focussed on trade deals – not just with the USA but with many other countries to highlight the effect these trade deals will have on UK workers’ rights, employment, and protections.

Tony Burke is Chair and Adrian Weir is Assistant National Secretary of the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom. This blog is based on speeches given at recent Campaign for Trade Union Freedom meetings and rallies.

Like this article? Left Foot Forward relies on support from readers to sustain our progressive journalism. Can you become a supporter for £5 a month?

One Response to “Workers’ rights must be protected when striking new US deal”

  1. steve

    Only a few years ago Labour MPs were backing the EU’s TTIP deal – a complete surrender to U.S. corporate interests. It was only campaigning by groups like 38 Degrees that shifted public opinion – thus outing the shamelessly pro-corporate Blairite PLP.

    So why should we expect anything other than a pro-corporate approach from Labour’s elite?

    Without Open Selections we will remain burdened with politically bankrupt Labour MPs who can only manage to echo Tory policy.

Leave a Reply