01 September 2016
Global Justice Now has released a briefing on the Trade In Services Agreement (TiSA), warning that it represents a substantial threat to the NHS and workers’ rights, and could make irrelevant our political parties and democracy itself.
While the media reports this week that the more famous and widely criticised Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations are falling apart at the seams, the threat of multinational corporations on our rights at work is alive and well.
TiSA has been on the negotiating table for years, and like TTIP the signing of this agreement would allow private interests enormous power over national policy and the rights of workers. However, TiSA also differs from TTIP is several important ways. For instance, TiSA is concerned only with trade in services, not goods. In addition, while TTIP would be an agreement between the EU and the US, TiSA is much broader, encompassing 50 countries from across the globe, including in poorer nations South of the equator.
Both deals would allow international corporations equal rights to trade as domestic companies, which would pitch local firms against global competition and would allow multinationals to put pressure on governments to deregulate their markets in order to optimise private profit margins.
They also both include ‘ratchet’ and ‘standstill’ clauses. The ratchet mechanism works to ensure that the direction of policy is always in favour of privatisation, because it makes it much more difficult to renationalise a service that has been previously privatised. The standstill mechanism means that no new regulation can be passed following the signing of such deals that could make it more difficult for international competitors to access a country’s market than domestic ones.
This means issues such as NHS privatisation could soon be out of the hands of the British population and even their political parties, as international pressure could stop the UK from renationalising any part of the healthcare system that has previously been put out to tender. Global Justice Now warns that TiSA would also make it very difficult for the UK to renationalise the railways – a proposal backed by the majority of Britons – or remove the power of the Big Six energy companies.
“TiSA holds out the dangerous prospect of making it much more difficult to pass progressive legislation without challenge. General elections will become increasingly pointless. Whether you vote Conservative, Labour, SNP, UKIP or Communist, the government’s hands will be tied because TiSA is an international agreement which has precedence over national and EU law,” Global Justice Now warned.
The organisation also explained that some workers could lose basic rights if TiSA is passed, describing the deal’s approach to labour law as “a throwback to another era”.
“Under proposals being considered for TiSA, some categories of migrant worker may end up being categorised as ‘independent service suppliers’ and will consequently not enjoy the right to things like the minimum wage or be allowed to join a trade union,” Global Justice Now reported.
“If you enter a country under this ‘mode 4’ visa, your presence in your new country may also be tied to your employer, so if you lose your job you would immediately have to leave the country. This sort of system of modern indentured labour is wide open to abuse by unscrupulous employers who may get away with illegal practices safe in the knowledge that they can threaten any employee with deportation if they complain.”
In Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, similar visa deals are already in place, and have led to working conditions that have been described as “close to slavery”, Global Justice Now added.