UNI Europa will only support trade deal fully protecting workers’ rights
Today the European Parliament voted on its recommendations on the Trade in Services Agreement TiSA. The resolution adopted with a large majority addresses some important UNI Europa issues while still falling short in particular on the key trade union demand for the full enforceability of labour standards. But the vote shows most clearly that TiSA as it currently stands does not even meet these minimum requirements set by the EP today and negotiations need an urgent change of course.
UNI Europa welcomes the Parliament taking a critical stand on the current TiSA negotiation text by pushing the Commission for a clear exclusion of all public services and audio-visual services from the scope of the agreement and insisting on the governments’ right to regulate. Although UNI Europa sees the clear intention of the law makers, still the wording reveals some loopholes and legal uncertainty.
With trade in services it will be key how governments uphold their right on what and how to regulate. This has been demonstrated most crucially during the financial crises when governments were confronted with the need to re-regulate their financial services. Therefore, UNI Europa demands the right of governments to take any measure to regulate finance and to protect themselves from the liberalization of financial services which must be clearly stated in the financial chapter of TiSA through a prudential carve-out to preserve the policy space of governments. On logistics and transport, postal and express services UNI Europa sees the need to preserve a universal service obligation while also taking into account the negative impact of past liberalization on quality of services, working conditions and health and safety.
Although language in the resolution could have been more explicit, UNI Europa clearly interprets the overall position of the Parliament as preference for positive listing where commitments are taken by parties only where they actually want to liberalise. By demanding TiSA to be in line with the GATS provisions this means the Parliament favours a positive list for both market access and national treatment and rejects in principal the Commission’s hybrid approach in TiSA. The same counts for putting regulation through a necessity test to be no more burdensome than necessary. Here the Parliament says a clear: No! Parliament also rejects the critical standstill and ratchet clauses in general for sensitive sectors, such as public and cultural services, public procurement, Mode 4, transport, and financial services. These clauses would freeze any level of liberalisation for future generations and limit the ability of governments to re-regulate sectors which have been previously liberalized.
UNI Europa welcomes the Parliament sending a strong signal to the Commission today that it will not accept any agreement that will undermine workers’ rights. It is unfortunate, though, that the resolution missed out on the chance to take an even stronger stand. Despite this being a key trade union demand for all trade agreements, the resolution falls short on demanding fully enforceable and sanctionable labour standards in TiSA. This is not acceptable. UNI Europa will only support a trade deal that fully protects workers’ rights. We call for any future agreement on trade in services to include a clause on control and enforcement mechanisms so as to deter and prevent companies from infringing labour and social rights, including collective agreements.
We now see the clear call on the European Commission to take an immediate change of course in its negotiations and to fully incorporate the Parliament’s demands. UNI Europa will continuously push for full protection of workers’ rights in all trade deals. Likewise we will also hold the European Parliament accountable to measure any final trade deal by the adopted red lines – starting with the upcoming political decision taking on CETA.
Image: European Commission