Sunday, 23 February 2014

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) : UCU retired members' branch briefing


Unbeknown to the vast majority of the population, an ignorance it would seem shared by the media, in secret and by unelected apparatchiks, the future of our world is being constructed.
What is commonly described as the EU/US free trade agreement but which is officially known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in Europe and the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) in the USA is being negotiated, on our behalf but in secret, by the unelected European Commission in Brussels.
The intention of all this cloak-and-dagger activity is to benefit transnational corporations and make the world safe for profit. As a mirror to the TTIP, the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) is simultaneously being negotiated, on the other side of the world, but with the same purpose.
The intention of both these agreements is to subjugate public policy, arrived at by democratically elected and accountable bodies, to the legalised absolute right of corporations to maximise their profits.
How is this to be done? This is, as one can imagine, a complex matter and here I will only present a basic picture. But I hope it will be enough to make you worried for the future and encourage you to agitate against it.
Who is deciding all of this? The TTIP is being negotiated behind closed doors by officials of the European Trade Commission and US Trade representatives. Our elected MEPs and the European Parliament have no input into these negotiations as neither do the national parliaments of the 28 EU member states or elected representatives in the US Congress. Nor do they have access to the negotiating texts. Negotiations are held in complete secrecy and we only know about them via leaks. There is a complete lack of transparency.
What is the Free Trade Agreement about? Its aim is to reduce barriers to trade and hence to corporate profit. Transnational corporations are concerned about two main impediments to their ability to maximise profits:
1) Tariff barriers. These are where national governments raise revenues by imposing taxes on traded goods. These may also be used to protect a national industry e.g., to protect a domestic car industry a government may impose a tariff on importing cars from a competitor nation. In an increasingly globalized world market tariff barriers are reduced, becoming less of a ‘problem’ to transnational corporations.
2) Non-tariff barriers. These are all the other impediments to “free” trade resulting from the legislation of national governments. It is often these non-tariff barriers that protect the people from the more voracious aspects of unbridled capitalism. These non-tariff barriers may be: health and safety legislation, controls on the ingredients of processed foods or the raising of livestock e.g., animal welfare legislation or controls on the use of antibiotics or pesticides in the production of our food, limits on the sale of tobacco and alcohol, holiday entitlements for workers, sick pay and benefits, the right of workers to join unions and defend their working conditions and remuneration, restrictions on the ability of banks and other financial institutions to do more or less what they want. These ‘non-tariff barriers’ interfere with the ability of corporations to “freely” maximise profit and are indeed referred to in the trade agreement as “trade irritants”. A major trade irritant in the UK until recently was the NHS system of public provision of public health care, closed to private companies. Or as they prefer to call it “the healthcare market”.
These frameworks of regulations covering the ability of transnational corporations to trade obviously vary from country to country reflecting different histories, culture and the balance of class forces in each location. To give themselves the maximum advantage transnationals are pushing via TTIP and TPP for regulatory harmonisation. Considering where the impetus for these trade agreements comes from, it is obvious that this harmonisation will represent a loosening of regulatory constraints rather than a tightening of regulation. Where EU regulation is stricter than in the US it will be reduced to the laxer US level and vice versa. Where this may not be possible they are pushing for “Mutual Recognition”, each trading partner recognising the standards of the other. One effect will be that a corporation operating in two jurisdictions will be able to choose which set of regulations is more favourable to it and comply with those, its choice being accepted by the regulatory authorities of the country it is operating in.
For the UK it is a relaxation of financial regulations that is most important reflecting the importance of the City of London in the promotion of TTIP. Here US regulation is now stronger, and the proposals amount to a Bankers’ Charter leading to the elimination of the regulations that have had leading banking institutions fined in recent years over such matters as the manipulation of the Libor rates. Anticipating the consequences of this harmonisation, the Health & Social Care Act 2012 was specifically designed to fit in with the corporate-benefit basis of the US public healthcare model, opening up the provision of healthcare, previously the remit of the NHS, to US transnational healthcare providers and other multinational corporates.
There are similar concerns over the opening up of the British education system to the transnationals. (See the University and College Union Briefing Document, which gives a very good overall analysis of TTIP)
How are the transnational corporations going to protect their interests? Trade agreements under the auspices of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) usually have a state-to -state mechanism for resolving disputes between corporate investors and national governments; when companies feel that government legislation threatens their actual or potential profits, their home state raises a dispute on their behalf against the other country, and the remedy is state-to –state trade sanctions. TTIP/TPP are different. They contain a mechanism for Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). ISDS is perhaps the most pernicious element to TTIP.
If a transnational company feels that the legislation of a nation state threatens its future profits it will be able to sue the government. (This may even be for potential profit it may calculate it might have earned at some time in the future). The company’s case will be heard by an extra-territorial tribunal i.e., not a legally constituted court in a national jurisdiction, where the case will be adjudicated by 3 “judges” who are corporate trade lawyers who will not operate within the ideology of impartiality that prevails in a court of law but just on the basis of ‘free trade’, with no consideration of other values, such as environment, human rights, safety etc. So ISDS can lead to national governments having to pay billions of tax-payers’ money to the corporations. It will also lead to legislators having their hands tied in regard to new legislation.
If you think this sounds far-fetched and that nobody would allow this to happen, currently:-
A Swedish company, Vattenfall, is suing the German government as a result of its decision in the post-Fukushima world to cease the generation of electricity from nuclear power. The Swedish company, which makes machinery used in nuclear power stations, is suing for loss of potential profit.
Infinito Gold, a Canadian mining company, is currently suing the small Central American country of Costa Rica for a billion dollars because that country has decided it does not want its pristine subtropical forest to end up like parts of the Amazon rainforest that have been totally devastated by the surface extraction of gold and the use of mercury in that process.
Philip Morris, the US tobacco giant, is using Hong Kong to sue the Australian government because of its decision to legislate for the sale of cigarettes only in plain packaging.
So the application of ISDS will have a profound effect on the democratic process. Not only does it have the real potential of costing governments billions in compensation payments to big business there is also the danger of “legislative chill”. This is where governments scrutinise and then decide to pull potential legislation because of the perceived danger of corporate litigation. A future Labour government may decide not to legislate to rein in the activities of the financial sector because of the risk of ISDS. It almost certainly means that, no matter how disastrous the “reforms” of the NHS turn out to be, a future government will not undo the Health and Social Care Act because of the costs of compensating, for example, Virgin Care and United Health. Similarly it doesn’t bode well for those hoping for an eventual renationalisation of the railways in Britain.
It is relevant that in the Canada/US Free Trade Agreement, still being negotiated, Canada is insisting that its healthcare system is exempt from the scope of the agreement; Cameron is insisting that everything (including provision of healthcare) will be covered by TTIP. A CBI (Confederation of British Industry) representative at a recent parliamentary meeting on TTIP said that, for the corporations that the CBI represents public procurement, that is all government spending, is the “big prize”. The EU target is US public procurement, especially at the level of US states. But our public procurement including, EU welfare systems, the NHS, education, elements of state administration, security, prisons, will all be up for grabs with tax-payers’ money going directly to multinational corporations. In this way public welfare becomes “corporate welfare”.
Another aspect of TTIP is Mode 4, which covers transnational corporations moving workers across borders as part of trade-in-services. The EU stipulates ‘skilled’ workers in its Mode 4 offers. This then allows corporations to bring in skilled temporary workers, inevitably as cheaper labour. Where this has happened in existing agreements, it has led to a general undermining of salaries and working conditions.
It was pointed out above that national governments have no input or scrutiny of the negotiations over TTIP. But surely they will have some say once the negotiations are complete? Yes they will, but there will be no right of amendment or modification. The governments of the 28 EU member states will only be allowed a YES/NO vote. A state will have to buy the whole package or reject it in its entirety. The European Parliament will discuss the Agreement after negotiations have concluded and then, assuming assent has been given, the Commission will provisionally implement the Agreement even before Members State parliaments have discussed it. Under those circumstances it can be seen as little more than a rubber-stamping procedure particularly in Britain’s case where the ConDem government is one of the main proponents of TTIP.
Our elected representatives may have no input into the negotiations but corporate lobbyists certainly have the ear of the negotiators. In the TPP negotiations, corporate interests met with negotiators some 150 plus times while representatives of “civil society” (NGOs and the like) only managed to access them some half-a-dozen times.
What can you do if all this alarms you?
  • Firstly you could affiliate to stopttip which is organising to oppose the Free Trade Agreement. (There is a fairly high email load here but it is good stuff from people who know what they’re talking about)
    Stopttip-request@lists.riseup.net - A website is in preparation.
  • Request a StopTTIP speaker for a meeting of your organisation
  • Seek the endorsement of your organisation for this campaign.
  • Write to your MEP telling them that you oppose the democratic deficit implicit, not only in the complete opacity of the negotiation process, but also in the ISDS system.
  • Write to your MP with the same concerns. At the end of the day, although they will obviously be whipped, it is these people who will be giving the TTIP the legislative nod.
  • George Monbiot has written extensively on TTIP on his blog and he is worth following for information as is Glyn Moody, one of whose blogposts has been included above.
  • http://www.monbiot.com/2013/11/04/a-global-ban-on-left-wing-politics/
  • http://www.monbiot.com/2013/10/14/elite-insurgency/
  • See also Open Democracy:
  • The Seattle to Brussels Network
  • and Corporate Europe Observatory provide up-to-date, informed and critical perspectives.
  • There is an exceedingly thorough examination of TTIP in December’s Le Monde Diplomatique (in English!)
  • And an article in a recent New Statesman looking at the consequences of TTIP implementation
Tony Hodges - UCU London Retired Members Committee

Friday, 21 February 2014

UCU Retired Members AGM Thursday 10th April 2pm to 4:30pm etc

UCU Retired Members AGM Thursday 10th April 2pm to 4:30pm - UCU Offices Carlow Street
This will include elections of officers, committee and congress delegate. Any nominations to the Secretary (s.cushion23@gmail.com) or on the day.

North London People's Assembly Against Austerity Pre-Budget Rally
The People Versus Austerity!
Tuesday March 4, 7pm, St Mellitus Church, Tollington Park Road, Tollington Park, N4 3AG London (5 minutes from Finsbury Park & numerous bus routes - seewww.tfl.gov.uk)  
Diane Abbott MP - Jeremy Corbyn MP - Katherine Connelly, Student Assembly Against Austerity - Manuel Cortes, TSSA General Secretary - Elaine Graham-Leigh (chair), Enfield Against the Cuts & NLPAAA - Suzanne Jeffrey, IHOOPS - Unite speaker & contributions from unions, anti-cuts groups & campaigns from across North London!

UN anti-racism day
Last branch meeting agreed to support the demonstration on SATURDAY 22 MARCH 2014 called by the TUC and Unite against Fascism.
Assemble 11 am - Join us on procession from Nelson Mandela statue, Parliament Square to Trafalgar Square rally. A branch meeting place will be advertised nearer the time.
Event website: http://www.standuptoracism.org.uk/

Branch Walks - message from the "Walks Co-ordinator"
Thanks to all who showed up for the Lea Valley walk. We were fortunate to hit on a gap between storm assaults.Hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.
Just to remind the regulars, and to inform new faces (not to mention branch members we have not yet seen), selection of walks is in the hands of everyone who participates.
So if you know somewhere with a walk attached that you want to share, in London or out of town, drop me (as Walks Coordinator) a note through the branch secretary.
So long as you are prepared to provide a brief text with details on place, walk length and conditions, proposed date, mode of transport, etc, for circulation, it will find a place in the programme.
Meanwhile info on the next ramble will follow shortly.
Dave

SERTUC Pensioners Network
 open meeting Retired trade union members - a resource or a bit of a nuisance? Wednesday 16 April 10am Congress House with Carolyn Simpson Unite, Jerry Latter Ipsos Mori, Anneliese Dodds Labour Party, Neil Duncan-Jordon NPC, Denise Murphy, Rodney Bickerstaffe info sertucinfo@tuc.org.uk

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Women's Assembly conference

Saturday, 22 February 2014 from 10:00 to 17:00 (GMT)
Conway Hall
Red Lion Square
WC1 London
United Kingdom

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The People's Assembly is pleased to announce the Women's Assembly conference date as announced in the Guardian, to take place on Saturday 22nd February 2014 at Conway Hall, London. 

Organised by women for women, all self defining women welcome. If you do not self define as a woman you can support the assembly by helping out publicise and inviting your women friends :-)Here's some of the speakers confirmed so far...

Dianne Abbot MP, Sarah Veale TUC, Lindsey German Stop The War, KAte Hudson CND, Diana Holland Unite, Gloria Mills UNISON, Francesca Martinez, Natalie Bennet Green Party, Cllr Rania Khan, Kate Smurthwaite comedian, Barbara Ntumy, Mya Pope-Weidemann, Kerry Abel Abortion Rights, Sabby Dhalu UAF, Doreen Massey, Christine Blower NUT and many more tbc... 

Workshops include: Comunity organising, Health, Women & Work: All Work and no equal pay, Anti-racism, Women & War, Transport, Education and more...

After the assembly we will be going to a pub round the corner :-)

Please let us know if you can help with stewarding on the day by emailing us atwomen@thepeoplesassembly.org.uk
Perhaps you could ask your local union or campaigning group to help with transport costs or to sponsor women from your area. 

You can help by sharing this event on Facebook and Twitter

We hope you can make it!

In comradely sisterhood, 
Women's Assembly

Thursday, 6 February 2014

82 year old Anne Power threatened with arrest at anti-fracking protest.

Despite being threatened with arrest, roughly treated by the Greater Manchester Police and again detained  against her will from her right to peaceful protest, 82 year old Anne Power is undaunted and back at arton Moss Community Protection Camp. See video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8ANT1J8yeM
Published on 9 Jan 2014

Anne Power is regularly escorted out of the line walking in front of the iGas truck convoy at Barton Moss, Greater Manchester under the guise of being 'for her own safety'! Today she argued her case with the Officers of the Tactical Assault Unit and was placed back in the line ... only to then be threatened with ARREST for 'Willfully Obstructing the Highway', despite the fact that she was walking forward! 
Anne Power is an inspiration to all those who have researched the dangers of Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) and are determined to prevent the UK water supply being contaminated ... as is the case in EVERY location where this abomination has been unleashed!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Iain Duncan Smith’s move flies in the face of David Cameron’s election pledge to rule out cuts to pensioner ­benefits


War on the old: IDS plans to batter OAPs with cutsWar on the old: IDS plans to batter OAPs with cuts
PA
Iain Duncan Smith tonight stepped up the Tory war on the poor by turning his sights on society’s most vulnerable.
The penny-pinching Work and Pensions Secretary wants to slash winter fuel allowances for pensioners and scrap their free bus passes and TV licences in a move that would spell misery for millions of people.
His cruel cuts could mean OAPs having to choose between heating their homes or eating as they lose up to £300 in cold weather payments.
And the over-75s would also have to fork out £145 for TV licences.
Mr Duncan Smith’s move finally destroyed any claim the party had to being caring Conservatives.
And it flies in the face of David Cameron’s election pledge to rule out cuts to pensioner ­benefits.
Mr Duncan Smith, whose flagship Universal Credit policy is in chaos, said the Government was discussing whether to put OAP payments into a wider Whitehall cap on welfare spending.
He revealed today: “We need maximum flexibility with the cap. Pretty much all existing ringfences will have to disappear.”
Shadow Chief ­Secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie said: “There are clearly major divisions within the Government over whether to cap pensioner benefits.
“One minute Downing Street are ruling it out and the next Iain Duncan Smith is ruling it in. It is time for the Government to come clean over what exactly they are going to do with pensioner benefits.”
Mr Duncan Smith’s move will also pile pressure on Mr Cameron to again rule out cuts to pensioner welfare.
The proposed spending cap was announced by George Osborne last year and will be formally set in the Budget later this year. At that time, the Chancellor will also set out which benefits will be included in it.
It will include most welfare payments – including housing benefit, tax credits and income support, Treasury sources said last night. But it will not include pensions or Job Seekers’ Allowance.
Under Mr Osborne’s proposal, the Government would be forced to cut benefits or ask Parliament for more cash if it breached its annual cap on welfare spending.
Putting OAP benefits in the cap will raise the prospect that they will have to be means tested in the long term as the number of pensioners grows year on year – putting pressure on welfare spending.
Treasury sources last night played down this prospect – pointing out that the annual spend on pensioner benefits was dwarfed by other payments.
But speaking at the Commons’ Work and Pensions Select Committee today, Mr Duncan Smith suggested too many benefits had already been guaranteed by ministers.
The PM has excluded old age pensions to shore up support among elderly voters who turn out in droves at elections.
But OAP benefits – including winter fuel payments, free TV licences and bus passes – have not yet been given the same protection.
Mr Duncan Smith was asked if scrapping those ring fences meant pensioner benefits were going to be put in the cap. He replied: “These are matters that are still under discussion.”
A Treasury source said: “It doesn’t necessarily mean pensioner benefits are facing cuts. It means in order to maintain them other benefits would have to be cut in order to keep overall spending below the cap.”
Labour has previously revealed plans to strip wealthy pensioners of their winter fuel payments but have ruled out interfering with free TV licences for OAPs.
The Coalition budget will set out the cap annually for five years from 2015. Announcing the policy, Mr Osborne said that he was introducing a “limit to the nation’s credit card”.
He said: “We’ve already capped the benefits of individuals, now we cap the system as a whole.”
Ministers have already ­introduced a £26,000 cap on the total ­families can claim in benefits, the same level as the average wage, which is being rolled out across the country.
The Mirror tonight asked aides of Mr Duncan Smith whether he wanted to see pensioner benefits reduced.
A source said: “It is something that needs to be looked at and it is still under discussion.”


Maureen Childs MBCS BSc CITP FRSA
Chair: Green Seniors
Tower Hamlets Green Party
Press Officer
mobile 07979 386683
email pressofficerthgreens@greenparty.org.uk

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Hands Off London Transport public meeting 31/01/2014

Hands Off London Transport public meeting 31/01/2014, featuring Natalie Bennett and speakers from RMT, GPEW, HOLT& Youth Fight for Jobs

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Retired Trade Union members – a resource or a bit of a nuisance?


A SERTUC Pensioners Network Event
Retired Trade Union members –
a resource or a bit of a nuisance?
Wednesday 16 April 2014 at Congress House, 10am – 3.30pm

Time was when life expectancy of trade unionists who had retired was considerably lower than it is now. Expectations of life after work were lower too, and the assumption seemed to be that we’d potter about a bit, pop into the British Legion occasionally and turn up at our Branch meetings to keep in touch with what was happening at work – and then we’d die. Our Unions knew there was value in a large number of loyal members who kept trade unionism going throughout their working lives and who were still interested and committed, but they weren’t really too sure what to do with us. After all, Unions are about representing people in work and we weren’t working anymore, but we continued to hang around, asking questions about policy and being a bit chippy. Retired members’ organisations seemed an ideal solution, as it allowed us to hold meetings, take minutes, affiliate to campaigns, and… Well, that’s it really.
But retired trade unionists have changed. There’s lots more women for one thing, reflecting the fact that a majority of trade unionists are women these days. We live longer and are generally fitter, and a lot of us continue to take part in activities that our parents at the same age wouldn’t have dreamed of. Quite a few of us even still have parents alive! We’re often technically savvy, familiar with using the internet and there are a good number of retired reps with Face Book pages. To put it bluntly, we decided there was more to retiring than hanging about until we popped our clogs and we discovered that continuing to be physically and mentally active was good for us. So perhaps its time to re-evaluate our role and the contribution we can make.
The SERTUC Pensioners Network has therefore decided that the 2014 annual seminar should focus on the role we can play and how our skills and experience could be better used. The day will feature a series of sessions, under the common theme, but looking at the different ways older people are regarded, treated and valued, in the UK and abroad. The day will end with Rodney Bickerstaffe, considering how retired trade union activists can re-assert themselves as valuable and fully functioning members of society in the 21st century.
The Seminar is on Wednesday 16 April 2014 at Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS, from 10am to 3.30pm. This is a free seminar sponsored by SERTUC, the TUC in London, the South and the East. Tea, coffee and a buffet lunch is provided. Congress House is fully accessible.

Agenda
10.00 Registration and coffee
10.30 The format and purpose of the day. Chair Carolyn Simpson Unite
10.40   Pensioners in UK Society – How are we doing?
An overview of UK pensioners, how many of us are there, our situation in the economy, and our prospects. Speaker Jerry Latter Research Manager at Ipsos MORI
11.10   Pensioners in Europe – How do we compare?
Looking at how UK pensioners are doing compared with our sisters and brothers in our neighbouring states, and how their society views them. Speaker Anneliese Dodds Labour candidate for the South East in 2014 European Elections
11.40   Future prospects and those already left behind.
Many retired women in the UK are worst off than their male counter-parts and the results of Government’s new ‘auto-enrolment’ pension system for the next generation are unclear. What are the forecasts?
Speaker
Neil Duncan-Jordan National Officer, NPC
12.10   Questions to the Panel and discussion
12.45   Lunch
13.30   A new role for retired trade unionists?
A review of good practice by our Unions in involving retired members, the roles they are playing and how these can be developed. Speaker to be confirmed
14.00   Reasons to be cheerful – Across the world, pensioners can set the pace. Despite far too many instances of neglect of older people, there are amazing examples of retired people taking effective action and securing real changes. This session reminds us that we too can still make a real difference.
Speaker
Denise Murphy OBE former Director of RSVP, a national volunteering organisation for retired people
14.30   Questions and discussion
14.50   Where should we go from here? Ideas for a more vigorous and engaged role for retired trade union activists. Keynote speech from Rodney Bickerstaffe ex-General secretary of both NUPE and Unison, ex-President of the NPC and long-term campaigner for older people  
15.20   Closing remarks by the Chair and Seminar ends at 15.30  
To register email sertucevents@tuc.org.uk or call
020 7467 1220 or use booking form overleaf




A SERTUC Pensioners Network Event
Retired Trade Union members –
a resource or a bit of a nuisance?
Wednesday 16 April 2014 at Congress House, 10am – 3.30pm




Name


Union


Any other retired people’s organisations or action groups you are involved with?

Email


Telephone


Address




Please specify any disability access and other facilities/needs



Complete and return to:
SERTUC, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS
020 7467 1220          sertucevents@tuc.org.uk www.tuc.org.uk/sertuc



Please pass this on to any other retired colleagues who may not have heard about this seminar