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Tue Feb 26, 2013, 02:10 PM

Unions seek stronger labour laws in US-EU free trade talks

Just days after it was announced that the USA and the European Union were to open discussions on a free trade agreement worth trillions of dollars, trade unions on both sides of the Atlantic said that employment rights had to be a key issue on the agenda.
The US media were also quick to point out that in countries such as Germany and France workers enjoy shorter working hours, better employment protections, statutory works councils and workers representatives on management boards – which spooked US employers into opposing stronger labour laws.
Owen Herrnstadt hailed the EU’s “sophisticated” labour laws.

“We are looking for harmonisation upward,” Herrnstadt said. “This is really a golden opportunity to negotiate a labor chapter that we have never seen before.”

Leo Gerard said the agreement should include strong workplace safety regulations and protections against toxic chemicals, among other items.

Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, warned an agreement based purely on economic gain will hurt workers in the USA and Europe.

She said that issues such as collective bargaining should be “absolutely at the core, so we get the distributional effects”.


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