Race to the bottom for workers’ rights

If the RCEP follows the corporate agenda of other recent mega-trade agreements like the TPP, it’s likely to worsen conditions for workers both in Australia and in our region.

In Australia

The RCEP could increase the number of temporary migrant workers in Australia, without testing whether local workers are available.

Temporary workers are already vulnerable to exploitation  because they can be deported if they complain.  Without stronger protections in place, this would lead to a race to the bottom on workers’ pay and conditions.

This will create more exploitation of vulnerable workers, which we have already seen as a result of the China FTA.

In our region

Wíthout strong, enforceable workers’ rights based on International Labour Organisation standards, the RCEP could contribute to a global race to the bottom on workers’ rights.

Deregulated global production chains have resulted in job losses in industrialised countries, and a race to the bottom as low income countries compete for investment with no effective workers’ rights, health or safety regulation.

A notorious case was the 2013 Bangladesh clothing factory disaster, where workers with no rights were ordered back into a substandard building which then collapsed, killing 1300 mostly women and children. This factory was one of many supplying major Australian retailers.

Fair trade agreements with enforceable workers’ rights would be one way to curb this downward spiral and ensure workers’ rights are enforced across borders. However, it is unlikely the RCEP will contain enforceable protections for workers.

Learn more

For all the latest news on the RCEP, follow this link.


Updated: March 2017