Workers Uniting — the global union formed by the United Steelworkers (USW) in North America and Unite the Union in the U.K. and Ireland, representing more than 2m workers in Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States — today (January 27) said that it recognises that the election of President Trump and the decision of the UK government to pursue a hard Brexit have dramatically altered the global political and trading environment in which workers and trade unions will need to operate.
Trade deal concerns
In this context, Workers Uniting highlighted that it is becoming extremely concerned by the increasing talk of a fast track trade deal between the US and the UK.
“Both USW and Unite were ardent opponents of the CETA, TTIP and TPP trade deals which were designed to enhance protections for corporations at the expense of workers, and weaken the ability of countries to protect the health and welfare of their citizens,” Workers Uniting noted in a statement today (January 27).
Democratic and transparent dispute resolution, strengthening of labour standards, health and safety and environmental protections, and protections for public services are red lines for Workers Uniting and the global union called on negotiators to respect them in the discussion of any new trade deal.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said that for workers in the UK, this was a huge time of uncertainty and he urged Prime Minister Theresa May to “proceed with extreme caution” on any new trade deal.
“With Brexit, fed up with generations of neglect by the political and business classes, voters chose an option that would make the elite sit up and take notice at last,” he noted.
“But while they voted to be out of Europe, they did not vote to be out of work. That’s why Unite is fighting to retain access to the single market that underpins our manufacturing sector.
“The prospect of this successful arrangement being replaced by bi-laterals negotiated with an America First president is not an enticing one.
“It is hard to see what the UK can secure from Donald Trump without paying a heavy price in our safety standards, living standards, and, I fear, our NHS which has long been a target of the voracious US private healthcare providers,” he added.
Workers Uniting went on to call for a strong and sustainable long-term industrial policies to be adopted in the US, UK, Canada and Ireland.
“These policies must direct government investment to skills training, research, industrial development projects, and strategies that support manufacturing firms, products and supply chains,” the global union argued. “A coherent industrial policy that identifies and commits to protect and maintain manufacturing will create jobs and help rebuild economies and communities.”
Respect for all
Workers Uniting said that it “strongly opposes the rise of the nationalistic and xenophobic rhetoric in all of our countries.”
In a time of immense upheaval and uncertainty Workers Uniting called on governments to make clear their commitment to respect and equal treatment of people regardless of religion, nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
“At our 2016 Congress, we resolved to build a global campaign in defence of trade union and human rights against the attacks of right-wing governments, based on the demand of respect for international labour standards and including the responsibility of global corporations to adhere to these standards,” the statement read.
“Today we reaffirm that commitment, as well as our solidarity with Mexican workers whose struggle to form democratic trade unions faces severe repression. We also call on the UK government to recognise the special and delicate status of Ireland in the process of Brexit and we support calls for no hard border or any undermining of the peace process.”
Unite and the USW created Workers Uniting out of the fundamental belief that only by fighting together across borders can we win the future our members and their families deserve.
Workers Uniting said that it will continue to fight to give all workers a collective voice in their workplaces that includes the right to form and join unions, and ensure that the political process is based on accountability and democratic values.
“We pledge to strengthen our cooperation in this changing global context and will continue to fight for worker and human rights everywhere in the world.”