Britain’s biggest union Unite, and the USW, a major union in the US have joined forces to urge president Obama to address the real and serious risk that the trade deal TTIP poses to the NHS.
On behalf of over 2.5 million trade union members, Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary and Leo Gerard, international president for the United Steelworkers union have written to president Obama to coincide with his three day visit to the UK .
In the letter the union leaders urge Obama to remove the NHS from TTIP and help win the argument for Britain to remain in the EU.
The letter reads:
Dear president Obama,
We are writing to you on behalf of over 2.5 million trade union members in Britain, Ireland, the US and Canada.
You are addressing the UK at a critical time – will Britain stay in the EU or not? We know you want Britain to stay in. We do too. We also know that you want to conclude a massive multi-billion dollar trade deal with the EU – known as TTIP. The two things are linked.
We all have many concerns about TTIP. The most worrying for the UK, is how it could impact the National Health Service (NHS). Michael Bowsher QC, a leading expert in European law, recently made it very clear that TTIP poses a ‘real and serious risk’ to the NHS. If this is not addressed many progressive UK voters will be put off remaining in the EU.
You once described the NHS as a “healthcare system that ensures you don’t go bankrupt when you get sick”. For the people of Britain the NHS is almost a national 'religion'. Protecting it is the difference between life and death. If you want to reassure UK voters about the EU then - at the very least - please make sure that the NHS is removed from the scope of TTIP. That is why we are asking you now to tell the European Commission, the British government and the British people that TTIP should not grant US companies any rights to sue the UK government over changes it makes to the NHS.
If you do this you could really change the debate and help win the argument for Britain to remain in the EU.
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary
Leo W. Gerard, USW international president
Notes to editors:
The ‘Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’ (TTIP) trade deal is being negotiated behind closed doors, between EU bureaucrats and delegates from the United States. It is the largest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated and threatens to make the on-going privatisation of the NHS irreversible. TTIP could 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.
One of Britain’s top EU lawyers Michael Bowsher recently confirmed that the EU US trade deal poses a ‘real and serious‘ risk to the NHS. Read the advice
On Monday 25 April president Obama will meet with leaders of Europe’s largest economies in Hannover, Germany, to discuss TTIP negotiations. The group includes French president François Hollande, Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, British prime minister David Cameron and the German chancellor Angela Merkel. The 13th round of negotiations on TTIP open next week in New York.
- The United Steelworkers has 1.2 million members and retirees strong in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.
- 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.
Contact: Ciaran Naidoo on 07768 931 315