Labour

The International Labour Organisation’s World Labor Report 2000 showed that increasing trade liberalization and the effects of globalization have resulted in job losses and less secure employment in both industrialized and Third World countries. Attacks on social welfare, healthcare and education, as well as privatizations, labour market deregulation, higher unemployment and strongarm tactics against union organizing are rolling back many of the hardwon fruits of struggle for workers around the world, and are being locked in by international free trade and investment agreements.

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In the name of global competitiveness, labour laws are being dismantled. Deindustrialization, as small- and medium-sized producers are crushed by floods of duty-free imports or by transnational rivals setting up shop nearby, has led to massive job losses.

The policies of liberalization and privatization have marched hand in hand with the restructuring of work and especially casualization and flexibility. As public spending is cut, many in the public service sector are laid off. This has led to the erosion of fulltime jobs, the growth of casual and contract labour positions and the intensification of work. Industry strategies of contracting out and outsourcing work, and the casualization have eroded the unionized workforce, along with the resurgence of temporary foreign worker programs in a number of countries. Bosses are able to threaten relocation of the workplace to a location with a cheaper, non-union workforce to bully workers trying to organize.

Such neoliberal policies force people from their farms, jobs, families and communities and into exploitation and precarity as migrant workers in other countries. Deindustrialization and the downsizing and privatization of essential services — accompanied by increasing user fees — are other “push factors”, forcing growing numbers to seeking work abroad. Health and education professionals in shattered public sectors are forced to migrate in search of work. Free trade, its advocates (like the US Administration) promise, will supposedly lead to a reduction of immigration because countries will become more prosperous. Washington proclaimed that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would lead Mexico to export goods, and not people to the US, yet so-called illegal immigration to the US has risen.

Some FTAs include provisions or agreements on labour mobility, such as deals which Japan has signed with Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines which allow for a limited number of nurses and caregivers into Japan on a temporary basis, prompting critics to argue that such deals merely institutionalize the commodification, exploitation and international trade in workers.

In many countries, trade unions and workers are playing important roles in struggles against FTAs. In Korea, for example, many thousands of KCTU members participated in demonstrations against the US-Korea FTA. Workers throughout Central America countries actively opposed CAFTA, such as those from the state power and telecommunications sector in Costa Rica and education workers in Guatemala.

last update: May 2012


    Articles

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  • 6-Jun-2011 In These Times South Korea ‘free trade’ deal: Another funnel for exploitation
    While President Obama and most Congressional Democrats are allowing the Republicans to define America’s most urgent crisis as the budget deficit, the nation’s job deficit grows more dire day by day with no clear, forceful direction coming from the White House.
  • 19-May-2011 AFL-CIO US steps up pressure on Guatemala to enforce labor laws
    The Obama administration announced yesterday that because Guatemala has not taken sufficient steps to effectively enforce its labor laws, as required under the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), it is requesting a meeting of the Free Trade Commission.
  • 19-May-2011 In These Times Workforce initiatives put brakes on controversial free trade deals—for now
    Lawmakers and corporations have worked hard these past few weeks to cinch a slew of free trade agreements in Congress, eager to repeat the tried-and-true formula of shifting jobs overseas and undermining working conditions at home and abroad. But just as the ink was starting to dry, something got in the way: workers.
  • 9-Dec-2010 Labor Notes With UAW’s King for cover, Obama backhands labor in Korea trade deal
    UAW sources suggest King felt he had to back the trade deal as payback to Obama for pumping billions into failing automakers in 2009—although the bailout of Chrysler and GM laid off tens of thousands of workers and cut pay—in half—for future auto workers.
  • 18-Aug-2010 Not-so-free trade agreements
    The flavour of protectionism is spreading in the US sometimes at the cost of impeding market access for trade partners. The recent law signed by US President Barack Obama to raise work visa fees will hit Indian companies immediately and US companies with global operations in the medium and long term.
  • 11-Aug-2010 Japan’s Gingerly Caregiver Plan
    With the world’s fastest-aging population, Japan has a growing need for nurses and other caregivers to staff its elderly-care facilities. Asian nations have many well-trained nurses and other caregivers who need jobs. The solution: import more nurses and care workers from Southeast Asia to fill gaping holes in the health care system.
  • 29-Mar-2010 NZCTU Trade unions in TPP countries call for a fairer trade framework friendly to working people
    In an historic move, peak bodies of Trans Pacific trade unions have called for a new and fairer framework for trade and investment agreements.
  • 13-Jan-2010 AFP Indonesia back-tracks on China trade pact
    Indonesia has asked to re-write a new regional trade pact with China, citing fears of job losses due to a flood of cheap Chinese imports across various sectors, officials said Wednesday.
  • 13-Jan-2010 Bsuienss Mirror Free-trade pacts ignore labor
    Recruitment agencies caution the Philippine government in signing free-trade agreements with developed countries because they will only result in further job losses for local workers
  • 12-Oct-2009 Reuters World’s poor see few job benefits from trade boom
    The boom in global trade over the last two decades has not improved the quality of most jobs in poorer countries, the World Trade Organisation and United Nations labour agency (ILO) said on Monday.
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