Ictu warns State may be sued by US firms if minimum wage raised

Proposed EU/US trade pact would be ‘profoundly undemocratic’ says union leader

A proposed new EU/US trade deal could allow American multinationals to sue a future Government for loss of profits if it raised the minimum wage, ICTU president David Begg (above) has said. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

A proposed new EU/US trade deal could allow American multinationals to sue a future Government for loss of profits if it raised the minimum wage, ICTU president David Begg (above) has said. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

 

A proposed new EU-US trade deal could allow American multinationals to sue a future Government for loss of profits if it raised the minimum wage, one of the country’s leading trade union leaders has said.

Speaking at the biennial conference of the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) in Kilkenny, David Begg, General Secretary of the Ictu, said the the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) was “profoundly undemocratic”.

He said if the proposed deal between the United States and Europe was put in place it would “make it almost impossible for governments to introduce any progressive legislation in the future”.

Mr Begg said the deal would effectively complete the ”subjugation of society” to corporate needs .

Ireland is a very small open economy and, generally speaking, it is in our interest to have a rules-based trading environment.”

“But it has to be fair, and TTIP is anything but fair. In fact the rules are stacked in favour of business from the beginning.”

He said a provision of the deal known as investor-state dispute settlement would “allow corporations to sue governments before an arbitration panel composed of corporate lawyers, at which other people have no representation and which is not subject to judicial review”.

“This…..could allow a US multinational to sue a future Irish Government for raising the minimum wage on the grounds that such a policy decision affected its profits”, he said.

Mr Begg said people should consider the chilling effect that such a development would have on governments and civil servants.

“We would never again as a Congress be able to achieve legislative change to benefit workers,” Mr Begg said.

He also maintained that TTIP could result in the alignment of “European labour markets with those of the United States with all the inequality and insecurity this implies - a kind of transatlantic race to the bottom”.