Australian, New Zealand and British Unions warn against bad proposals in UK trade deal

September 23, 2020: As former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott now advises the British government in its trade negotiations with the European Union, Australia and New Zealand, the trade unions from the three countries have issued a united call for decent work and high standards of health,  environment and public services.

“As talks are now underway between our countries on future trade deals, workers in the UK, Australia and New Zealand are united in calling for a deal that supports a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that supports decent work and social wellbeing in all countries we trade with. Throughout the negotiations, our governments must consult trade unions on the text of trade negotiations to ensure they attain the objectives of promoting decent work and protecting high standards of employment, environment, safety and public services."

“We are concerned that the UK government has expressed support for the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), to which Australia and New Zealand are a party. CPTPP is a bad deal for workers. … CPTPP does not contain mechanisms to adequately protect and enforce labour rights. The deal also poses threats to public services, opens the door to increased exploitation of migrant workers, and contains ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) provisions that allow big business to sue governments for changing domestic policies”.

While Abbott was Prime Minister, Australia signed free trade agreements with China, South Korea and Japan, which led to the closure of Australia’s car manufacturing sector.

“We need to end the system which allows Governments to negotiate trade deals in secret and make sure that all deals put working people first,” said Australian Council of Trade Unions President, Ms Michele O’Neil.

The unions called for any trade agreement to exclude ISDS, guarantee governments’ right to regulate and protect public services and to have enforceable commitments to guarantee workers’ rights.