Labour

The combined effect of structural adjustment programmes, increased capital mobility and the globalisation of production has resulted in mass job losses and precarious employment in many countries over the past 30 years. Attacks on social welfare, healthcare and education, as well as privatisations, high unemployment and strong arm tactics against trade union organising, have rolled back many of the hard-won fruits of struggle. In the name of global competitiveness, workers are set against each other in a race to the bottom which only the bosses can win.

International free trade and investment agreements are an important vehicle for the transfer of power from labour to capital. As transnational corporations are granted ever greater rights to trade and invest across the global economy, workers are increasingly cast as commodities in global value chains over which they have no control. The transnational capitalist elites that sit on top of these global networks of production can freely switch suppliers in search of lower labour costs or higher productivity, leaving behind a social devastation from which successive generations are often unable to recover.

The new generation of twenty-first century FTAs are now seeking to intensify this imbalance still further by removing the social standards and market regulations that have traditionally served to limit the power of transnational capital. The elimination of these regulatory ‘barriers’ to trade forms a central pillar of the most recent wave of FTAs, through which transnational corporations will be freed from any restrictions which might have allowed labour to participate in the benefits of trade or investment. Workers will create the wealth, and corporate elites will accumulate it.

One strategy previously advocated by trade unions in the global North was to press for social chapters in FTAs as a means of mitigating the worst effects of market liberalisation. This strategy is now widely recognised as ineffective, since such measures could never compensate for the devastation caused by bringing domestic enterprises into unequal competition with transnational corporations. The record of deindustrialisation and mass unemployment in the wake of trade liberalisations imposed on the peoples of Africa and Latin America shows just how high a price workers have paid for such policies. The negative experiences of US, Canadian and Mexican workers as a result of NAFTA are a reminder that workers in richer countries are also vulnerable.

Trade unions in the global South have long played an important role in mass movements of resistance to free trade and investment agreements. In Korea, many thousands of KCTU members participated in national mobilisations against both the US-Korea and EU-Korea FTAs. Workers in Central America actively opposed CAFTA, such as those from the state power and telecommunications sector in Costa Rica and education workers in Guatemala. Now Northern trade unions are joining these movements of resistance: all major European trade union federations have come out against CETA and TTIP, for example, just as the AFL-CIO called for a halt to the TPP negotiations for fear of the impact on US workers. The global union federation PSI has also spoken out against service liberalisation agreements such as TiSA, which threaten to undermine public services and public sector jobs alike.

Migrant workers’ associations have also formed part of the movement against FTAs. Free trade and investment agreements have resulted in social dislocations that have forced people from their farms, jobs, families and communities into exploitation as migrant workers, either internally within their own states or in other countries. At the same time, the growing number of FTAs that include provisions on temporary labour mobility have been condemned for endangering workers still further, driving people to migrate while still denying them basic rights in countries where their presence is highly precarious and often used by employers to undermine existing labour standards still further. Only when workers are no longer relegated to the status of commodities serving the economic strategies of capitalist elites can there be any hope of their liberation from such exploitation.

Contributed by War on Want

last update: December 2015


    Articles

     EN   ES   FR 
  • 26-Mar-2008 Rebanadas de Realidad Confederación Sindical de Trabajadores las Américas: 700 sindicalistas se reúnen en Panamá
    Según el Plan de Acción consensuado para los trabajadores es imprescindible fortalecer los procesos de integración regional y subregional, con una participación plena de los trabajadores y trabajadoras, como respuesta a los Tratados de Libre Comercio (TLC) que sólo profundizan la brecha entre y dentro de los países empobrecidos y países ricos
  • 11-Dec-2007 Colombia Journal Bush and Harper ignore Colombia’s labor rights reality
    There is no moral justification for the United States and Canada negotiating a free trade agreement with Colombia when the foundation of these pacts is the slaughter of Colombian unionists. The perpetrators of these crimes should not be rewarded with an agreement that most Colombians do not want.
  • 28-Nov-2007 Mingas Letter from Colombian unions to US Congress
    In the framework of the debate in the respective congresses around the ratification of the Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and the United States, the Administration of Alvaro Uribe Vélez has spread the idea in governmental circles in the United States that the Colombian union movement is divided and that "a majority" sector supports the TLC. In this document, we will demonstrate that this idea does not reflect the reality of the Colombian union movement.
  • 16-Nov-2007 What jobs?
    No Deal! Movement Against Unequal Economic Agreements on the questionable employment benefits of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA)
  • 14-Nov-2007 Upside Down World Mexico-Guatemala: The other border
    The loss of jobs in the agricultural industries, along with increases in the cost of living with fewer employment opportunities under CAFTA are speculated to produce economic and social hardships that will result in migration both within and outside Central American nations. Most of this migration will be directed towards Mexico and the US.
  • 31-Oct-2007 AlterNet New research: Win-win from "free trade" is a big lie
    Neoliberal "trade" deals depress wages for 70 percent of workers.
  • 24-Oct-2007 CAW Canada-Korea FTA would destroy jobs in all provinces and regions
    If the Canadian federal government proceeds with a free trade agreement with Korea as promised, the impact on Canadian communities would be disastrous, according to a new study released by the CAW on October 23.
  • 18-Oct-2007 Reuters Guatemala union heads killed despite US trade deal
    Masked gunmen dumped a Guatemalan banana picker’s bullet-ridden corpse yards from fields of fruit bound for the United States, a grim reminder of the risks of organizing labor in the Central American country.
  • 22-Jun-2007 CFR Should labor standards have a role in US trade agreements?
    Charles Kernaghan of the National Labor Committee and Claude Barfield of the American Enterprise Institute debate the merits of labor standards in trade pacts.
  • 4-Jun-2007 Labor Ministry expresses reservations on US National Labor Committee on Jordan FTA factories
    The Labor Ministry on Monday expressed some reservations on the information contained in the US National Labor Committee report on workers at Jordan’s garment factories which are exporting duty-free under the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
  • 0 | ... | 30 | 40 | 50 | 60 | 70 | 80 | 90 | 100 | 110 | ... | 120