Pictured: Barry Finnegan speaking at our #FirstWedsDebate on TTIP. He also spoke at the seminar in the Unite Hall.
On the afternoon of Wednesdsay December 10th, International Human Rights Day, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions had a seminar on TTIP in the UNITE Hall on Abbey Street, Dublin. Jennifer Fay headed along and filed this report for Comhlámh.
Because I was busy being civilly disobedient at the anti-water charges protest I missed the first hour of proceedings. However, I made it along for the panel discussion which was chaired by Patrick Kinsella (a freelance journalist specialising in economics and economic policy).
The panellists were: Esther Lynch (Congress), Rachael Maskell (Unite National Officer), Tom Healy (NERI), Barry Finnegan (ATTAC Ireland) and Heidi Lougheed (Head of Trade Policy, IBEC)
In his opening remarks Patrick Kinsella acknowledged the fact that Ireland are in the early stages of a debate about TTIP that should be further down the tracks. And also that the labour movement aren’t strongly represented in governments in Europe right now.
Esther Lynch, Rachael Maskell and Barry Finnegan all spoke in opposItion of TTIP.
Esther Lynch said we cannot overestimate the threat to democracy through TTIP. That workers and citizens will be pitted against each other and that governments won’t introduce laws to protect workers if there are going to be financial consequences.
Rachael Maskell said that there is another trade agreement being discussed in secret at the moment between 50 countries and that TTIP will be the blueprint they use for this. She said that as a result of TTIP state services will be removed never to be returned again. At the moment governments are shying away from protecting public health but we need to be looking across the board at labour standards, health and safety rights and environmental standards rather that solely focusing on health because these will all be affected if TTIP goes through. The time for action is NOW. We need to take to the streets; we only have a short time for campaigning.
Barry Finnegan questioned the assertion that the ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) is there to protect investors because there is some evidence that ISDS can actually lower foreign investments.
He said the biggest ever petition in the EU (against TTIP) has passed the 1 million mark which we need to sign and share with our friends. Also, April 18th 2015 is the Global Day of Action in the US and the EU to stop TTIP; we need to start organising ourselves now.
Tom Healy and Heidi Lougheed spoke in support of TTIP.
Tom Healy said he feels that the EU needs to redouble its effort to sell TTIP and to deal with the myths attached to it head on. He noted that there is an absence of discussion about TTIP in the Oireachtas.
Heidi Lougheed said that TTIP offers a good opportunity to Irish companies to secure procurement of business in the US. IBEC would like to see investor protection and they want to make sure there is a balance between transparency and confidentiality.
When the discussion moved to the floor there was a suggestion that the unions should come together within the Congress to lobby the government on TTIP. And that all unions should take their time and be clear on a united approach to arguing against TTIP before they reach out to civil society.
My own thought on that was that civil society is at this very moment outside on the streets of Dublin protesting against the privatisation of water. Why aren’t the unions looking to join forces with the anti-water charges campaign to take collective action on both issues which are inextricably linked?