A delegation of UNISON activists met North West MEP Theresa Griffin on Friday to urge her to vote against the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada.
CETA has been negotiated behind closed doors and will enshrine the marketisation and fragmentation of public services. A crucial vote will take place in the European Parliament on 15th February to decide whether CETA will be introduced.
UNISON believes that CETA is primarily designed to cut tariffs and “regulatory barriers to trade”, making it easier for companies in both Europe and Canada (and the US) to access each other’s markets.
Iain Mooney, Young Members Officer at Cumbria and North Lancashire Health Branch, raised concerns that the marketisation of health care in rural Cumbria would lead to increased privatisation and the undermining of wages and terms and conditions.
The drive to maximise profit would further entrench the postcode lottery in health and social care as expensive and unprofitable services to vulnerable service-users in isolated and remote communities would be cut.
Dale Ollier, Branch Secretary at Cheshire Police, lamented CETA as undemocratic and will lumber future generations with a trade deal that makes nationalisation or public ownership impossible. Furthermore, the Investment Court System (ICS) contravenes the principle of equality before the law as, under CETA, companies will be able to sue our government if their profits are threatened. This will have a clear and demonstrable impact on UNISON members as it threatens our ability to collectively bargain or improve pay and terms and conditions.
The overwhelming consensus of UNISON activists was that CETA will amplify the difficulties our members are already facing and make any attacks on terms and conditions irreversible. Young workers in particular are more likely to be on zero hour contracts, unemployed or under-employed, and Ollie Mears, Young Members Officer at Pennine Acute Health Branch, was concerned that this exploitation would deepen if CETA is agreed.
Saleem Ahmed, International Officer at Bury Branch, made the point that CETA would harm UNISON’s most vulnerable and exploited members the most, including care workers, due to increased inequality. For these reasons, UNISON members felt that Labour MEPs had a duty to oppose CETA.
After a positive and constructive meeting with Theresa Griffin MEP, UNISON North West is optimistic that the Labour Group in the European Parliament will oppose this insidious neo-liberal trade deal, however the fight is not over and you can still lobby your MEP to oppose CETA.