US and UK unions set out demands on governments for trade summit in Aberdeen
The union bodies for UK and US unions – the TUC and AFL-CIO – have today (Monday) come together to call on the UK to follow the US government’s lead and adopt a “worker-centred approach to trade”, where trade unions are routinely consulted on trade negotiations.
The UK and US unions warned that US government is only likely to consider closer US-UK trade ties if the UK government starts “meaningfully consulting” with trade unions on trade deals.
The UK government has not yet confirmed all of the TUC’s union nominees for its Trade Advisory Groups that are consulted on the text of trade negotiations – and as a result, trade unions still don’t have seats on the influential groups.
The call comes ahead of the second leg of the UK-US trade summit in Aberdeen where officials from the UK and US governments will meet, including Secretary of State for Trade Ann Marie Trevelyan and US Ambassador Katherine Tai.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady and AFL-CIO trade lead Eric Gottwald are also attending the summit.
Last month, at a meeting with the US government during the first leg of the summit, the Secretary of State for Trade pledged that she would “strengthen the protection of labour rights and the environment” and “tackle forced labour globally”.
The US and UK unions say the US worker-centred approach has achieved real improvements for working people - pointing to the US-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) agreement as proof.
They say that as a result of trade union involvement in the USMCA negotiation, the agreement contains the “one of the strongest labour rights enforcement chapters ever agreed” – with possibilities for sanctions to be introduced against companies that are abusing workers’ rights.
The union bodies are calling on the UK government to learn from the US – and encouraging the US government to go further in its “worker-centred” approach.
The TUC and AFLCIO are using the trade summit to call for both the UK and US governments to work together to:
ensure respect for labour standards and human rights are promoted in WTO rules
develop enforceable mandatory human rights and due diligence laws, informed by meaningful engagement with trade unions, with civil liability penalties for non-compliance to regulate companies’ entire operations globally
review trade deals to ensure there are adequate protections for workers’ data and all public services
develop effective measures to ban the import of goods made with forced labour and ensure remedy for exploited workers
The UK and US union bodies add that the UK government has hurtled into trade deals with unsavoury regimes that have no respect for fundamental human and labour rights – and call for a change of tack.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“Trade deals can lift labour standards, promote decent work and reduce inequality around the world.
“But the UK government has agreed too many deals that leave working people worse off.
“Again and again, ministers have hurtled into trade deals with governments that readily abuse fundamental human and labour rights like Colombia and Turkey. And they have undermined our commitments to honour the Northern Ireland protocol and respect the Good Friday Agreement.
“Enough is enough. It’s time for a truly worker-centred trade approach. That means meaningfully consulting with trade unions and acting on our concerns.
“Only then is the US government likely to consider closer trade ties with the UK.”
AFL-CIO Trade Policy Specialist Eric Gottwald said:
“For too long, the voices of working people have been shut out of trade negotiations or discussions.
“We need the TUC and its unions at the table to shape a fair agreement that lifts wages and standards on both sides of the Atlantic.”
- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.
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