EU deal will put elderly care at risk

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The Irish Examiner | 13 October 2015

EU deal will put elderly care at risk

By Ann Cahill

Water, healthcare, education, postal services, and energy could also be open to being privatised under the deals being negotiated by the European Commission with Canada and the US.

The warning comes from a study of documents from the negotiations seen by a number of trade unions, NGOs, and the lobby-watching Corporate Europe Observatory.

They want all public services excluded from the transatlantic agreements, claiming governments’ ability to look after citizens’ common good is threatened.

It says Ireland is one of 11 countries that has submitted a clause to the TTIP deal that would liberalise long-term care, such as residential homes for the elderly.

They reserve their right to adopt or maintain any measure regarding privately funded social services “other than services relating to convalescent and rest houses and old people’s homes”.

The report states: “This could stand in the way of measures protecting the long-term care sector against asset-stripping strategies of financial investors like those that led to the Southern Cross collapse in the UK.”

The report says US company Home Instead, which provides home care services for seniors, operates a franchise and has offices in several EU countries, including Ireland. It reportedly asked the US trade representative to “focus on two particular home care-related issues as we negotiate the TTIP with the EU”.

It wanted Vat removed from home care services as it “substantially inhibits our successful entry into many EU markets”. It listed the second barrier as European labour laws that mean part-time workers are entitled to “extensive benefits including paid vacations”, which it says “unnecessarily inflate the costs of home care”.

Home Instead opposed new labour rules in the EU on the minimum wage and overtime hours and, according to the report.

In Switzerland the public services trade union VPOD, protested against Home Instead’s business model that guarantees high profits for the company while shifting the risks to the franchises that respond by cutting labour costs, the report says.

The union called Home Instead Switzerland “the McDonald’s of the for-profit business”, the report states.

It warns that in the worst case scenario, the trade deals “could lock in public services into a commercialisation from which they will not recover — no matter how damaging to welfare the results may be”.

It warns that the European Commission, negotiating independently and on behalf of the member states, is being led by vested business interests and is actively seeking their advice on what to include in the agreements.

The report claims the commission is actively seeking businesses to lobby them and quotes Pierre Defraigne, former deputy director general of the commission’s trade department, who speaks of a “systemic collusion between the commission and business circles”.

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