CUPE is part of a delegation in Europe this week to oppose the Canada-European Union trade deal called CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement). Negotiators for Canada and the European Union are holding a critical eighth round of negotiations for a sweeping new trade deal that increases health care costs for Canadians, threatens Canada’s public water, gives extensive powers to corporations, and limits local democratic control for municipal governments. CUPE staffers Blair Redlin and Carol Ferguson are in Brussels to lobby Members of the European Parliament (MEPs); meet with unions and civil society groups; and monitor the negotiations.
Here’s a personal account of the second day of work in Brussels by CUPE senior officer Carol Ferguson and CUPE trade policy expert Blair Redlin.
CUPE’s CETA journal
Tuesday was a very busy day for the Trade Justice Network and RQIC delegation to the eighth round of CETA trade talks in Brussels.
The day began with an interesting meeting with trade specialists from the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour (AK Europa). AK Europa has produced a large number of significant reports on E.U. trade policy for the Austrian labour movement, including proposals for CETA.
After that, Blair Redlin went on to the European Parliament itself for a series of meetings, while Carol Ferguson visited the offices of EPSU for a gathering of unionists and civil society groups strategizing on E.U. trade policy.
The president of the European Federation of Public Service Unions, Anne-Marie Perret, warmly welcomed Larry Brown (NUPGE), Teresa Healey (CLC) and Carol Ferguson to a lively meeting of union, NGO, political and academic representatives on public services in the European Union. We went to the meeting to listen and learn about the European experience in public services but were very pleased to be asked to address the group about why unions in Canada are opposing CETA.
It was a great privilege to be invited to this meeting. Many services in Europe were privatized over the last ten years, but there is a new move by local public authorities to take these services back. The experience in Europe with privatization of services has not been positive although we are often told otherwise. Knowing this makes defending the public services we have in Canada even more important.
At the Parliament Buildings, Blair Redlin attended a lunch panel discussion on the tar sands and CETA, co-hosted by Green/EFA Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Keith Martin from the U.K. and Greek Socialist MEP Kriton Arsenis. More than 60 MEPs and parliamentary staff attended the event. After the five-member panel had spoken, the question period featured a lively exchange with a representative of the Canadian government’s Mission to the E.U.
After that, a meeting was held with British Labour MEP Stephen Hughes and Spanish Socialist MEP Alessandro Cercas, who are both members of the important Employment and Social Affairs committee. A wide-ranging discussion on a variety of CETA-related topics – including asbestos, procurement, and public services – ended with plans to meet with the full Socialists and Democrats (S and D) caucus in future. The S and Ds are generally affiliated with the European trade union movement and are the second largest caucus in the European Parliament.
In the late afternoon, the delegation attended a meeting of the Public Services Intergroup, chaired by French Socialist MEP Francoise Castex. Parliamentary Intergroups are meetings that bring together not only MEPs with an interest in a particular issue (like public services) but representatives of unions, business and civil society as well. The panel included a presentation on CETA’s implications for public services by NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer Larry Brown.
The ensuing discussion included an intervention by Blair Redlin on water privatization, after a representative of an association of international water companies disputed the idea that CETA is a threat to public water.
The long but productive day concluded with an evening briefing from the Government of Canada’s chief CETA negotiator, Steve Verheul. We learned that progress in the negotiations has been delayed on the offers for services and procurement. These may need to be delayed until October. As Larry Brown quipped to Verheul at our briefing, “It sounds like we had a better day than you did.”
Learn more about the dangers of CETA: