Covert US-EU trade deal could make NHS privatization irreversible – trade unions
A group of high-profile trade unions have backed a growing campaign opposed to a new transatlantic trade deal critics claim will make the privatization of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) irreversible.
Three of the UK’s largest unions have tendered motions to the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in Liverpool, outlining their opposition to the cross-border agreement currently being negotiated by EU bureaucrats and US delegates.
While the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is the largest bilateral trade deal ever brokered, it is currently being developed behind closed doors.
Critics caution it threatens to culminate in the permanent privatization of NHS services by prioritizing profit-wielding corporate firms over domestic lawmakers. Once finalised, UK union Unite warns the deal would pave the way for US corporations, or any firm affiliated with American investors, to sue the British government if it ever embarked on an effort to place privatized health services back under public ownership. Such legal proceedings would be conducted in a secret court setting, the union says.
Once a final agreement is reached, MPs are set to vote on the deal.
Speaking at the TUC in Liverpool on Wednesday, Unite Assistant General Secretary Gail Cartmail urged congress delegates to oppose the TTIP and rally support amongst people in the UK to demand Prime Minister David Cameron keep Britain’s health services out of the TTIP agreement.
Reflecting on the danger of the TTIP, Cartmail said, “It is clear this government thought they could do this deal in secret – a deal that would mean the irreversible sell-off of our NHS to America.”
The union’s assistant general secretary compared the privatization of Britain’s NHS to that of the nation’s energy sector – arguing claims this sell-off would culminate in lowered energy prices merely resulted in energy firms reaping “record profits” while fuel poverty remains rife.
Cartmail added: “Wall Street financiers like Blackrock and Invesco are already heavily invested in the NHS – over 70 percent of new contracts are now in private hands. Over £11 billion of our money in the hands of casino capitalists.”
Calling upon Britons to collectively campaign for the government to “veto health from TTIP”, she said the British government had privatized the state’s “health care with no mandate” and must “not be allowed to sell off our health service to America.”
As covert EU-US negotiations continue, a cross-border European campaign against the trade deal is gathering momentum. Environmentalists, trade unions and leftwing political parties from far-flung states in Europe are collectively voicing their opposition to the TTIP.
Some 10,000 people recently took part in over 600 separate events throughout Britain organized by the UK campaign group, 38 Degrees, in an effort to raise awareness about the dangers the agreement poses to British citizens. According to the campaign, the TTIP harbors profound socio-economic implications for Britons should it be passed, and raises serious questions about the nation’s political sovereignty.
“The deal would put the profits of big businesses ahead of our environment, our healthcare, and could even stop the government raising the minimum wage in the future,” an 38 Degrees spokesperson said.
The British government denies allegations the agreement is driven by the agenda of multinational firms intent upon market deregulation, which would seek to render NHS privatization permanent and soften financial regulation.
Labour’s shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, recently argued the NHS should be removed from the negotiation table and excluded from this deal, which threatens the fabric of a publicly-run NHS.
“The market is not the answer to 21st century healthcare. The demands of 21st century care require integration; markets deliver fragmentation," he said.