Written by Signing entities
Wednesday, 11 February 2015 15:51
The social and labor consequences of TTIP: Chronicle of a disaster
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Treaty (TTIP) between the US and the EU is being negotiated between multinational corporations and political elites at the backs of the citizenship in both regions.
Its alleged goal is to remove tariff barriers to commercial activity (however, the customs rates are already quite low: 5.2% in the EU and 3.5% in the United States of America) and to foster investments, economic growth and job creation.
Its real goal is to deregulate and eliminate social, labor, union rights, environmental regulations and privatize public services such as health, education, water, transport, etc., to improve companies’ profits.
The TTIP aims at ensuring investments by companies above the laws of the States, to the point that they will have to compensate the companies if their expected level of profits is not achieved, through the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), by which investors can initiate an arbitration procedure against host states not subject to the ordinary courts of the states.
The TTIP turns the screw by destroying the rights of citizenship and disciplining workers, by emphasizing the processes of cuts, privatization and liberalization of capital flows, further increasing the power of big capital, as it has happened with other treaties such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
From this perspective, the consequences will be negative for agriculture, food and rural areas, health, privacy, employment, labor and social rights and the environment.
Consequences for employment and labor and social rights
According to the U.S. government, TTIP would provide for millions of new jobs. There are studies that talk about the creation of 750,000 jobs and an increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the EU between 1% and 0.5% to 2,027, but the Commission itself reduces it to 0.1%.
But jobs will be destroyed in many industrial branches: meat, fertilizers, bioethanol, sugar, equipment and metallurgical. An alternative and critical study by Tufts University says, among other things, that 600,000 jobs would be lost in the EU, labor income would reduce its share in GDP, and government revenues would be lost.
As regards labor and trade union rights, we must take into account the “harmonization” of regulation, the “race to the bottom”.
In the U.S., labor and union rights are conspicuous by their absence. In the European Union they are guaranteed by now, but not harmonized . Although formally they are minimally guaranteed, they are violated and increasingly breached.
The U.S. has only signed two of the eight conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), those against child labor and slave labor, but not those related to collective bargaining and the right to organize and of association.
Nor have they ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (including labor, trade union and health rights) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, by resolution 2200 A (XXI) of December 16, 1966 and which came into force on January 3, 1976.
Also among the states of the Union [the U.S.] there is a competition to attract investors, from other states of the Union and foreign countries as well, for which 24 of them have lowered wages and trimmed rights in occupational safety and health. Collective bargaining and union organizing are not recognized, therefore the right to strike and freedom of association have disappeared from the world of work.
They provide “facilities to work” (availability for employment or employability) instead of jobs. It has been introduced the so-called Workfare, by which unemployed people is forced to ‘volunteer’ or face losing their right to benefits (from a neoliberal point of view the unemployed are responsible for their own situation, not the socioeconomic context that produces unemployment, poverty and inequality), which also paradoxically is called right to work. It’s neither settled a minimum wages nor safety and health in the workplace.
Workers in some multinationals such as Wal-Mart and McDonald’s are paid starvation wages, so much so that they have to apply for Food Stamps Program granted by the government to the poor.
This is the labor situation that could very likely be implemented in the EU countries, for the sake of competitiveness, should they sign the TTIP.
On the other hand, the U.S. is the most unequal country in the world where access to health care as a fundamental human right is not recognized. Its health system is almost entirely private and low quality. President Obama has recently expanded health care, however nearly half of the 50 states of the Union refuse to expand health care for the poor.
This situation is mainly due to the economic power of large insurers. Those who have money can access a private quality health care.
For its part, the EU apply neoliberal policies in all areas for decades, especially in the socioeconomic, social policy and labor policy which is clearly delegated to the Member States. This policy not only doesn’t put an end to inequality, unemployment and poverty but worsens them. It is limited to design and develop plans to be put in place by the states.
The unemployed are considered, as in the U.S., as solely responsible for their situation, for what it must be made them “employable”, applying “active employment policies” (individualizing the problem) and pushing them to accept any employment, promoting temporary and part-time contracts, precarious work .
The benefits have lost their character of Human Rights and have turned into “liability contracts,” a kind of social care insurance, seriously weakening labor conditions.
The retirement age is extending and pensions being reduced. The labor reforms give much more power to employers. For this reason, there has been general strikes in Greece, Portugal, Spain and recently also in Italy and Belgium.
This is the precarious situation of labor and social rights in the EU, under the Treaty of Lisbon still in force, which resembles increasingly, in a disturbing and dangerous way, the American parameters.
It is therefore necessary to fight this European construction and TTIP, uniting the civil society, workers and alternative class unions, in a coordinated and effective way, so that big business fails to eliminate our fundamental rights , among which are the social, labor and trade union rights, the elimination of which is the real purpose of these agreements.
Against the globalization of economic exploitation, labor internationalism and class solidarity!
Bloque Combativo y de Clase
Alternativa Sindical de Trabajadores (AST)
Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT)
Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT)
Comisiones de Base (Co.Bas)
Coordinadora Sindical de Clase (CSC)
Intersindical Aragon (IA)
Sindicato Asambleario de Sanidad (SAS)
Solidaridad Obrera (SO)
Notes: The non-harmonization of basic rights (minimum wages, working hours, working conditions) enables both thedumping of labor and social rights and facilitates the “absolute freedom of capital to move where labor costs are lower or national labor laws are more liberal or permissive.”  The penultimate “absurdity” of the pro-regime trade unions (CCOO and UGT), when signing of the € 426 for six months, for once, is conditioned by these “employability policies”: the unemployed signs a “separate contract” of forced readiness to continue a working path, where the entrepreneur (anyone) plays with the advantage in hiring, as long as the “aided” person, by the help of charity “can’t refuse any contract that is offered him”.