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  • Deal with EU should be UK’s priority, union leaders agree
  • Bad deal with US will put jobs, rights and public services at risk

US union leader Rich Trumka has today (Friday) joined forces with the British TUC to warn the White House and Downing Street that any trade deal must put workers’ jobs and rights first.

EU Deal

The TUC and AFL-CIO – union federations which together represent over 18 million workers – agree that the UK’s priority should be negotiating a good trade deal with the EU.

The EU deal should establish a level playing field on workers’ rights, protect jobs by preserving frictionless trade in goods and services, protect public services and ensure there’s no hard border in Northern Ireland.

The TUC has warned the government that, because US and EU standards diverge so dramatically, a trade deal that locks the UK into US-style regulations could prevent the government from negotiating the strongest possible relationship with the EU.

US Deal

The statement also outlines a series of key requirements for any UK-US deal, including:

  • Enforceable commitments to protect workers’ rights.
  • Exclusion of all public services, including the NHS, transport and education.
  • Exclusion of all kinds of special courts which allow foreign investors to sue governments for actions that threaten their profits, such as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) or the Investment Court System (ICS).
  • Commitment from both governments to support the Paris Agreement on climate change.

To ensure that these requirements are met and that the deal prioritises the interests of working people, the TUC and AFL-CIO are calling on both governments to consult with unions before beginning negotiations.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:  

“A decent deal with the EU must be the government’s priority – not selling off our NHS to Donald Trump.

“Boris Johnson shouldn’t be rushing into talks with the US to make a political point.

“A bad trade deal with the US will put working people’s jobs and rights on the line and undermine our vital public services, environment and food standards.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

“Workers on both sides of the Atlantic are united in calling for a high-standard trade deal that creates jobs, raises wages, and guarantees workers’ fundamental right to organise trade unions.

“US and UK unions demand fair trade and will vigorously oppose any deal that seeks to promote the narrow interests of multinational corporations over those of working people.”


Notes to editors:

The full statement from the TUC and AFL-CIO reads:

As dialogue continues between our respective governments regarding a potential US-UK bilateral trade agreement, workers on both sides of the Atlantic are united in calling for a deal that supports decent jobs with good wages for all and fair distribution of wealth.

The priority must be for the UK to negotiate a good deal with the EU to ensure ongoing protection of rights, jobs, public services and peace in Northern Ireland.  To protect jobs it is crucial the UK retains as much barrier free and tariff free trade as possible with the EU.  And as a minimum the rights of UK workers must at least keep pace with those of their EU compatriots. 

Before undertaking negotiations on any trade deal involving the UK and US, and throughout any negotiations, our governments must engage with trade unions to ensure the objectives of any deal are to promote good jobs and protect high standards of employment, environment and safety.

Any trade negotiations between our countries must involve trade unions on an equal basis to employers. For too long, trade deals have prioritized the interests of a handful of multinational companies over those of working people.

To guarantee these goals, any trade deal involving our countries must:

  • Exclude all public services, including the UK National Health Service, transport and education;
  • Exclude all cultural sectors;
  • Contain enforceable commitments to respect International Labour Organisation core conventions on labour rights including the right to take industrial action, to join and form a trade union and the right to collective bargaining, with swift and certain enforcement mechanisms applied to business and governments when labour rights are abused; 
  • Include a rapid-response labour enforcement mechanism that would provide for facility specific inspections and appropriate sanctions including denial of entry of goods and access to the government procurement market for businesses that violate the agreement’s labour standards commitments;
  • Ensure the right of both governments to enact consumer protection laws, including country of origin labelling;
  • Protect the right of governments to use public procurement to support economic development, improve working conditions and pursue social and environmental objectives;
  • Protect the ability of both governments to regulate our tax systems and financial services;
  • Protect the right of both governments to establish and maintain policies necessary to protect consumer data security and privacy;
  • Exclude all kinds of special courts for foreign investors such as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) or the Investment Court System (ICS), which allow foreign investors to sue governments for actions that threaten their profits;
  • Exclude outdated, overbroad copyright safe harbour language that allows stolen or otherwise illegitimate content to proliferate, cutting into the revenues that provide for creative professionals’ income, health care, and retirement security;
  • Exclude language providing for excessive patent protection or data exclusivity periods for pharmaceutical drugs; 
  • Commit both parties to support the Paris Agreement and policies that ensure the creation of unionised jobs with good pay and benefits in the energy sector;
  • Expand cooperation to combat unfair trade practices including circumvention and evasion of antidumping and countervailing duty cases.

- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 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.

- The AFL-CIO works tirelessly to improve the lives of working people. We are the democratic, voluntary federation of 55 national and international labor unions that represent 12.5 million working men and women. We strive to ensure all working people are treated fairly, with decent paychecks and benefits, safe jobs, dignity, and equal opportunities. We help people acquire valuable skills and job-readiness for the 21st century economy. We help make safe, equitable workplaces and give working people a collective voice to address workplace injustices without the fear of retaliation. We fight for social and economic justice and strive to vanquish oppression in all its forms. 

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