Speaking at the TUC in Liverpool today (10 September), Unite assistant general secretary, Gail Cartmail will tell congress to oppose TTIP, and urge working people to demand that David Cameron vetoes health from TTIP.
The Tory government’s Health and Social Care Act of 2012 accelerated the sell-off of the NHS to private health firms, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) now threatens to make this sell-off irreversible.
The deal, known as TTIP, is being negotiated behind the closed doors of the European Commission, between EU bureaucrats and delegates from the United States. It is the largest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated and threatens to make privatisation of the NHS irreversible by giving the profits of corporations precedence over national lawmakers. Secret courts would grant American multinationals, or any firm with American investors, the power to sue the government if it ever attempted to take privatised health services back into public ownership. MEPs will vote on the final package once an agreement is reached.
Unite’s Gail 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. Imagine that – no way back.
“We know what previous sell-offs have meant – look at energy. Remember what we were told at the time? It would be cheaper – competition would be good for us. Yet this week we see energy bosses making record profits while millions of UK citizens are living in fuel poverty.
“David Cameron called the six energy companies to his office about six months ago about tariffs and bills and they told him to go away – you don’t own us was their message. This is what it will be like for health but worse as it will be irreversible. In the hands of profiteers and we would have no say.
“Wall Street financiers like Blackrock and Invesco are already heavily invested in the NHS – over 70 per cent of new contracts are now in private hands. Over £11 billion of our money in the hands of casino capitalists. It is happening – galloping privatisation.
“The campaign is growing, the demand is getting louder. Cameron can no longer ignore voters on this issue. Each one of us must go back to our communities and make the demand – veto health from TTIP. Shame on this government because they have privatised our health care with no mandate but they will not be allowed to sell-off our health service to America.”
For further information please contact Ciaran Naidoo on 07768 931 315 Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
Notes to editors:
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.
TTIP Briefing: The Need for an NHS Exemption
What is the issue?
The EU-US Trade deal known as TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) could undermine government freedom to change policy on private provision in the NHS. So, Unite is demanding that David Cameron vetoes TTIP unless NHS health services are clearly and fully exempted. We are also asking MEPs to vote against any TTIP package from which the NHS has not been exempted.
How can TTIP interfere with Government policy on the NHS?
Our greatest concern is that TTIP will give NHS private providers and their US investors new rights to sue the UK Government if it brings privatised services back into public hands.
Hasn’t the NHS already been exempted?
No. A recently leaked letter from the EU’s Chief Negotiator, Ignacio Garcia Bercero, to John Healey MP has caused some confusion about whether the NHS has already been exempted. Unfortunately, it has not. In fact Mr Garcia confirms in his letter that, while there are some schedules in TTIP that could apply to aspects of the NHS, American investors in NHS providers will still be fully covered by investor protection. Nonetheless, this confusion continues to be exploited by the European Commission and the UK Department of Health, who also use weasel words in their own attempts to make the issue to go away.
What is ‘investor protection’?
As Mr Garcia points out, this means that a US investor profiting from the privatisation of the NHS could use TTIP to bring a successful arbitration case if it can prove to the satisfaction of a panel of three trade lawyers, sitting in secret (one of which would be chosen by the investor) that its rights under TTIP had been breached, “for example by expropriation without compensation, a denial of justice or manifestly arbitrary treatment”. In such cases tribunals can award unlimited compensation and there is no right of appeal.
Who could sue us?
Wall Street financiers (like Blackrock and Invesco) and big US health corporations (like United Health and HCA) are already heavily invested in our NHS, thanks to the Health and Social Care Act 2012. According to the Financial Times, around £5.8bn of NHS work is currently being advertised to the private sector, a 14 per cent increase on last year. We believe there is a real risk that such companies could take an investor protection case in the UK if a future government reversed the current NHS privatisation spree.
How likely is an NHS investor protection case?
Mr Garcia has tried to reassure us that ‘in his opinion’ such cases are unlikely to happen in the UK. However, his opinion might carry more weight if there were not already so many examples of companies using trade deals to take aggressive investor protection cases against governments for policy changes that are against their interests:
- The Slovakian government saw Achmea seize 30 million Euros of its foreign assets for renationalising its health insurance system;
- The Spanish government has been hit with a raft of investor protection cases attacking its changes to solar energy policy;
- The German government were sued by Vattenfall using investor protection to demand €3.7 billion in compensation for lost profits when the German government decided to phase out nuclear energy after the Fukushima nuclear disaster;
- The Australian government was attacked by Philip Morris using a similar trade agreement to claim its new laws on cigarette packaging were tantamount to expropriation.
TTIP is set to give US investors and healthcare companies new rights that they can use to bully governments. It will also allow them to win cases at tribunal that they may not even bother to pursue in national courts (where they would have to contend with a whole body of national law, impartial judges, appeals etc.). If they are given these rights, we believe they will use them whenever they think it is in their commercial interest to do so.
Is this all about ISDS?
No! It is important to understand that this is not simply a matter of getting rid of the increasingly unpopular Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). If US investors have the possibility to take State-to-State actions via the US Government, instead of taking ISDS actions directly, the problem does not go away. Indeed as private NHS contracts get bigger and bigger (the Staffordshire tenders for cancer and end of life care are worth over £1 billion), so does the risk of this happening - with or without ISDS. So, we really need a comprehensive exclusion of the NHS from TTIP covering all types of investor protection.
Is TTIP protection needed for NHS investors?
Again the answer is no. As Mr Garcia says in his letter, “Member States are already required to respect applicable domestic and EU law regarding, for example, the conditions for early termination of contracts”. So, if there is nothing new and scary in TTIP, we have no need to re-invent the wheel. Unite does not believe that TTIP should offer US investors in NHS providers any special ‘investor protection’ and we are clear that if the NHS was really exempted from the deal as we demand, it would not include any.