Trade in Services Agreement a serious threat to Australian workers

Statement from Ged Kearney, President, ACTU: Governments are rushing to complete the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), which would strip political power away from citizens and hand an open chequebook to multinational corporations, allowing them to take control over the services that people rely on every day. 

A report released today by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) on the operation of the proposed agreement should be deeply concerning to all Australians and is yet more evidence of a government beholden to corporate interests. 

Leaked information contained in the report shows that governments would have to ‘consult’ with multinationals when considering new regulations and that these corporate entities would have the ability to influence decisions taken by our democratically elected representatives. 

Certain provisions in TiSA would make it impossible to undo disastrous privatisations. This would mean that the disastrous privatisation and opening up of the VET sector in Australia could not be undone. TiSA negotiators have agreed a plan to lock-in liberalisation – once a service sector is fully opened, governments would be forbidden from ever protecting it. Local government would be banned from supporting local services companies, which would hurt small businesses and local communities. 

As an example of TiSA’s impact, the agreement will effectively open borders to hospitality workers from all 28 TiSA countries. Currently, in all negotiating countries hospitality workers are recognized as workers who need an employment contract. 

However, as ‘service suppliers’ they would be hired with a general contract for provision of services for a limited time similar to an IT freelancer who helps a company build a website and receives remuneration for this particular project. 

Such workers will not be protected by labour laws and they might end up being exploited. In addition, Australians employed in beverage serving might be faced with competition from unprotected workers whose wages are going to be lower than the agreed wage in this sector and in cases, even the minimum wage. This puts at risk thousands of Australian jobs. 

TiSA in its current form is totally unacceptable, and if there is a need for an agreement on trade in services, then negotiators should start again, with an open and democratic process and without corporate lobbyists calling the shots. 

ENDS 

See full ITUC report here: http://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/ituc-tisa-report_en.pdf 

Media contact: Peter Green 0400 764 200 or ACTU Media 

03 9664 7315 http://www.actu.org.au/actu-media/media-releases