Crumlin And Hoffa Say Free Trade Should Not Come Before Fairness

International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) President Paddy Crumlin and James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) will tell representatives of the world’s road and rail workforce gathered in Brussels, Belgium, today that trade can’t be free if it’s not fair.

Mr Crumlin will reiterate what he recently told the MUA National Council.

“We have a responsibility to reclaim and consolidate our institutions to put together global campaigns to effectively deal with the globalisation of capital,” Mr Crumlin said.

“The need for strong global unions has never been greater. Look at the abuses we are seeing from the neoliberal agenda worldwide - an attack on workers, casual and precarious work, exploitation and inequality.

“The top one per cent already controls almost all the wealth in this world – what’s that going to be like in 15, 20 years if we don’t do something about it?

“We will have the ability through our amalgamated union and the new ITF to change how we campaign, how we deal with global employers, and how we mobilise workers world-wide.”

Mr Hoffa will address 171 representatives and leaders from 84 trade unions representing road and rail workers in 42 countries worldwide, who are meeting in the Belgian capital at a conference organised by the ITF.

The week-long event is addressing issues and strategies on topics including: trade deals such as CETA and TISA, and how they undermine workers’ protections; the threat of railway privatisation; driver only operation; solidarity with Korean workers; the launch of an Our Public Transport campaign; the future of work; automation and the digital economy; safe rates and making multinationals accountable.

In a pre-released version of his speech in Brussels Mr Hoffa will state: “Americans don’t want so-called ‘free’ trade deals. The threat is now over from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), but the agenda that it promoted survives in TiSA (the Trade in Services Agreement). A recent poll, conducted for Politico and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, found that a majority of Democrats and Republicans believe that trade deals have cost the US more jobs than they have created. The Teamsters, other unions and fair trade allies have been sounding the alarm about the devastation such trade deals bring for decades.

“TPP was more than 5,000 pages of inexplicable text benefitting big business at the expense of everyday Americans who would have suffered economically. Where TTP led the way it appears that TiSA aims to follow. We are banding together to expose the hidden agenda of these undemocratic and secretive deals, made in closed rooms in grand halls and offices miles away from the realities faced by men and women on the street and in the workplace.”

Mr Hoffa will conclude: “Our priorities remain safe workplaces, where workers’ rights are respected, operating in societies with quality health care, union rights, and free from tax havens and currency manipulation.”

Mr Crumlin added: “We welcome James Hoffa’s insights and presence at this international gathering, which is not just sounding the alarm about the threat these secretive and shady deals – which put profits first and jobs, safety and people last – pose to global standards and safety oversight, but is building the knowledge and alliances needed to develop realistic, worker-centred alternatives to them.”

Other panellists at the discussion on trade deals will include Tanja Buzek, of Germany’s ver.di trade union, and Yorgos Aliantzis, trade advisor at the ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation). It will be chaired by Tony Sheldon, chair of the ITF road transport section and national secretary of Australia’s TWU (Transport Workers Union), who will state: “The ITF has been one of the leaders in the fight against the secrecy and unaccountability that is a fundamental part of deals such as TiSA. We have repeatedly highlighted how that deal attacks marine cabotage, which preserves vital maritime skills and national seafaring workforces, and undermines the jobs and futures of aviation and port workers.”

Free Trade Agreements

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

  • Involves 12 Pacific rim countries including there USA and Australia but notably, not China
  • The proposal was signed in February 2016 in Auckland but is yet to be ratified by governments
  • The agreement promises to "promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness”
  • Critics including the ACTU and MUA oppose the deal as will primarily benefit corporations and undermine quality of life for ordinary workers
  • The inclusion of so-called investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms is of particular concern to unions because it gives gives foreign investors their own special legal process to sue governments

Trade in Services Agreement (TISA)

  • Involves the European Union along with 23 governments
  • Services including energy, health, education, financial services, e-commerce, postal and transport are impacted
  • Leaked information suggests there have been market access requests from the EU negotiators to other countries to further liberalise their services 
  • The ITF has joined other global union organisations in blasting the EU for pushing other governments to privatise and deregulate as part of negotiations 
  • The ITF has already voiced serious concerns about TISA opening up maritime cabotage 

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
Involves the EU and Canada (CITA) and the EU and the USA (TTIP)

  • Unions say these agreements would result in deregulation, liberalisation and the handing of further powers over law-making to big business
  • Nearly 3.5 million Europeans said they didn’t want either deal, following a year long petition campaign
  • The ITF has been one of the harshest critics of these agreements, repeatedly warning of little-publicised risks and inbuilt injustices
  • The ITF says CETA in particular will impact seafarers and dockers by undermining maritime cabotage rules and throwing open national ports to predatory corporate raiders.