A ntigua Sun | Monday June 30 2008
Trade unions call for renegotiation of EPA
by Afeefah Beharry
Regional trade unionists have called for a review and renegotiation of the recently initiated Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), negotiated between the EU and the Caribbean Forum (Cariforum) countries, Caribbean Community (Caricom) member states and the Dominican Republic.
This recommendation came after a three-day round table discussion by regional Caribbean workers’ organisations who met in Barbados recently.
According to a press release, their suggestion was made in a declaration which is expected to be submitted to the heads of government during the 29th Summit in Antigua this week.
Among the recommendations made in the declaration are the insertion of protocols on the principal Cariforum productive sectors, providing for the identification of legally binding bilateral co-operation measures to be provided under the agreement; the inclusion of legally binding development benchmarks designed to measure the socio-economic impacts of the EPA on key sectors of the economies and key segments of the societies - in particular, workers; as well as the inclusion of a provision for a mandatory review within three years of signature of the agreement, with the possibility of renegotiation.
The Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL) has also urged that the labour movement be given the opportunity to present its positions on major issues such as the EPA and all other external trade agreements.
CCL’s first vice president and General-Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Worker’s Union (A&BWU) Senator David Massiah said CCL thinks it is important that they have the input of workers into this particular trade arrangement that is going to be affecting the working class within the Caribbean in general.
One of the aims, according to the declaration, is to establish a mechanism to permit a closer working relationship between the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery and the CCL to allow for labour’s participation in the process and to benefit from its negotiating skills.
The deliberations laid the basis for trade unions to draw up a declaration and plan of action outlining their priorities and strategies for advancing and defending the interests of workers and their organisations in the new regional environment.