Unions call for labour-friendly FTA’s

South Korean and New Zealand union centres oppose Korea-New Zealand free trade agreement and call for new model
“ trade rules should not undermine public health and safety, workers' rights, the environment, essential public services and fair economic development in order to protect the rights of corporations”

The Korean Council of Trade Unions, representing 800,000 members and 25 million workers in South Korea, and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions representing 350,000 workers in New Zealand are calling on their governments to thoroughly review their approaches to the proposed trade and investment agreement and to create a new model of trade agreements between their countries. 

In a joint declaration released today, Presidents Kim Young-Hoon and Helen Kelly say that the governments “should work to create a labour-friendly model of trade and economic cooperation through adequate consultations with labour unions and civil society groups”.

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In the declaration, the peak union organisations call for a moratorium in their negotiations for a free trade and investment agreement between the two countries.

The declaration states: “If our concerns are not addressed we will strongly oppose the continued negotiation of the Korea – New Zealand FTA and will work together to ensure that this agreement is not implemented.”
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The declaration outlines the concerns of the two movements with the model of trade agreement that is being proposed. It says that “trade rules should not undermine public health and safety, workers' rights, the environment, essential public services and fair economic development in order to protect the rights of corporations. And such an agreement should support the creation and preservation of full employment and good jobs in both countries, and protect and enhance labour rights. Both governments should undertake changes needed to ensure that all workers in both countries are afforded their fundamental labour rights including rights to organise and to bargain collectively, and that those rights are progressively enhanced.”

The Presidents say “The agreement must include a strong and enforceable labour chapter. Both this and a strong and enforceable environment chapter should have primacy over economic and commercial provisions of the agreement.”

“Negotiations towards a fairer and more just trade and economic cooperation process must be carried out with much greater openness, including regular releases of draft text, continuing consultation with unions and other affected groups including provision for their attendance at negotiating rounds, and processes in each country which allow citizens and their elected representatives an effective voice in the decision on final acceptance.” said the Presidents.

The joint declaration can be found here

The challenge of Free Trade Agreements in Asia : A roundtable discussion

Despite the ongoing multiple crises of employment, food, finance, energy and climate, most Governments have not eschewed trade liberalisation. Due to an interplay between geo-politics and the rise of emerging economic powers and their multinational corporations, Asian countries have set aside the WTO Doha Round failure and have preferred to engage in a complicated web of ambitious bilateral and regional Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). The rapid spread of FTAs in Asia has made it the global hub for trade liberalisation. As of February 2011, the region has some 63 concluded FTAs with several more under various stages of negotiation.

Asian civil society groups have also been in the vanguard; doing research, campaign and advocacy in critiquing the lack of transparency and anti-development nature of these trade and investments treaties.

This roundtable organised by Focus on the Global South brought together academicians, researchers and activists ( including two parliamentarians from South East Asia) to discuss the state of play, share updates on national level campaigns and discuss issues of mutual collaboration. Issues addressed include employment, finance, agriculture and access to affordable medicines and health care.

Download the Report Summary

How 12 Multinational Corporations Avoid Paying Taxes


A new report shows how some of the world's biggest companies pay nothing to the (US) IRS through lobbying and loopholes.


“Over the past month, General Electric has been held up as the pinnacle of corporate vampirism –– the world’s largest corporation in the world’s lowest tax bracket. But it’s not just GE that’s bilking the system and paying zero dollars in taxes.

A new report out today illustrates that at least 11 other multinational, billion-dollar corporations managed to get a free pass from the IRS – and not only that, but while average Americans scraped their piggy banks to pay hefty taxes on paltry paychecks, many of these companies actually got a refund. Want to know how they pulled that off? By the fatcat’s swindle: lobbying, campaign contributions, and other legal gladhanding that helps them exploit corporate loopholes and keeps their pockets flush while the rest of us struggle to get by.

The campaign reform group Public Campaign has released a report called "Artful Dodgers," identifying 12 corporations – including GE – that used these tactics to avoid paying any taxes while reaping huge benefits. More disturbingly, the report notes they collectively spent over a billion dollars influencing politicians to make Washington more corporate-friendly. As the report points out, the money invested to sway groups such as the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee has been wildly successful. Legislation from both parties has created these tax loopholes, while providing incentives that effectively destroy the American workforce.”

Read complete article at AlterNet

Checkout the report Artful Dodgers

Government Leadership Lacking on Kiwirail Procurement


Rail manufacturing workers say KiwiRail procurement decisions are too important to the local economy for the Transport Minister and Prime Minister to wash their hands of them.

An announcement from KiwiRail’s on the successful bidder for the $500 million purchase of 38 three-car electric multiple units and 13 locomotives for the Auckland rail network is very close, it was noted in Parliament’s Question Time.
Rail and Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Wayne Butson said that several KiwiRail purchasing decisions had gone against the local workforce, and it was time for government to require stronger local content provisions from KiwiRail’s procurement programme.

“Rail workers were gutted when KiwiRail announced last May that New Zealand workshops would not be building the Electric Multiple Units for Auckland.”

“This was despite a comprehensive BERL report for Chambers of Commerce, unions and local government, proving the case for a local build,” he said.
An investment of $8.5 million in Kiwirail’s workshops
 – a quarter of the Warner Brothers handout – could
have added $250 million to GDP and created 1,270
full-time equivalent jobs.

“This followed 20 Diesel Locomotives for the North Island being built in China, and making matters worse, the job for 300 new container flat top wagons last December also went to an overseas firm.”
“When Steven Joyce rejected the BERL report on the Close Up programme last year, he held out hope that the 300 wagons would be built locally.”

The Minister said: ‘There will be lots of work for these guys, there’s no doubt about that, because they do a lot of things well and there’s a big rolling stock replenishment and replacement exercise that’s coming down the pipeline (Steven Joyce, Close Up, May 3 2010)’

“Despite this, the job went overseas, just like the Electric Multiple Units. Steven Joyce’s reassurances became worthless to the Dunedin and Lower Hutt workforce,” Wayne Butson said.

“It’s not good enough for Steven Joyce and John Key to wash their hands of these decisions. They do have options open to them. As KiwiRail’s shareholders, they need to put in place stronger local procurement requirements. Without them we will see more decisions that go against local workers, local industry development, and the export potential that that involves.”

Wayne Butson said in relation to Auckland’s Electric Multiple Units, the RMTU would be watching very closely to see whether KiwiRail honoured the local involvement pledge it made during the tender process.

KiwiRail’s May 2010 tender document encouraged firms to ally themselves with New Zealand subcontractors or suppliers and “include as much New Zealand content and resources in the design, construction, delivery, testing, maintenance and support of the EMUs as is appropriate.”

“We have always wanted these trains to be built in Dunedin and Lower Hutt but local involvement provisions from the lead supplier was the next best option. It is essential that this is rigorously pursued by KiwiRail,” he said.

Rail & Maritime Transport Union Campaign Page


US about to conclude “shameful deal’ with Colombia


It’s official. President Obama has betrayed his fair trade campaign promises. Today Obama and Colombian President Santos will announce a sham “deal” on labor rights issues as political cover to jumpstart a NAFTA-type trade deal with Colombia — the union-murder capitol of the world. Yes. The same outrageous deal Obama opposed as a candidate.
You can get information about
Colombian political prisoners here

With this shameful “deal,” Obama aims to serve up a triple dose of Bush NAFTA expansion poison: a deadly Colombia-Korea-Panama NAFTA expansion. The disgusting Colombia deal is a slap in the face of organized labor and its supporters, already fuming about Obama pushing Bush’s job-offshoring Korea trade deal to a vote soon. Just last year, 51 Colombian unionists were assassinated for exercising their basic human rights — more than in the rest of the world combined. Working families won’t stand for this sort of betrayal.

But it’s not only the unionists being targeted and murdered. Afro- and indigenous-Colombians leaders are also under fire. As under NAFTA, which has been shown to have displaced roughly 2.5 million rural Mexican campesinos, their communities will suffer under the trade deal. With nearly 4 million already displaced by armed groups and elite landowners, the Colombia trade deal is a human rights nightmare.

From an email received this morning from Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

Postscript (we also received this today)
Bogotá, Colombia, April 7, 2011 - Confidential internal memos from Chiquita Brands International reveal that the banana giant benefited from its payments to Colombian paramilitary and guerrilla groups, contradicting the company's 2007 plea agreement with U.S. prosecutors, which claimed that the company had never received "any actual security services or actual security equipment in exchange for the payments." Chiquita had characterized the payments as "extortion."

Click here to see the paperwork

Roger Award winners announced

Triple sweep for the film industry:

The Roger, the Accomplice and the Quisling

Warner Brothers wins

 BUPA 2nd; Imperial Tobacco 3rd

John Key & his government winner of Accomplice Award
Peter Jackson wins quisling award

The film industry made a clean sweet at the prestigious Roger Award Ceremony held earlier this evening in Auckland clearing out the trophy cabinet by grabbing both the Roger Award and Accomplice Award and picking up the new Quisling category.
Warner Brothers was a first time nominee. The Judges’ Statement says that: ''The ‘Hobbit’ affair was an extraordinary example of transnational capital interfering in local politics, and overtly influencing the actions of the NZ Government (which richly deserves its Accomplice Award). It was an overt display of bullying that humiliated every New Zealander, and deliberately set out to do that… such interference in New Zealand politics sets a precedent for all future negotiations between the New Zealand government and transnational corporations”. It won because of its interference in NZ politics and governance and treatment of employees and contractors.

Hobbit affair: An overt display of bullying that...
sets a precedent for all future negotiations
 between the New Zealand government and
 transnational corporations”.
BUPA (which is the second biggest retirement home chain in NZ) came second “primarily because of its poor treatment of both its staff and its clients” (one of whom, a 100 year old woman, died after suffereing considerably for several months from misdiagnosed and untreated scabies). Imperial Tobacco came third, not only for selling a product which kills and addicts its users, but because of its role in setting up a fake citizens’ organisation to lobby for its product, a tactic which the judges described as “despicable and deceitful”.
John Key and his Government won the Accomplice Award for their ignoble role in the whole Warner Brothers/”Hobbit” affair. “It has apparently given rise to a whole new men’s fashion garment in Hollywood – Warners of Wellington trousers. They have an arrow printed on the seat, and the words ‘kiss here’”.

The judges announced a special Quisling Award for Sir Peter Jackson (to be awarded to the individual New Zealander who does the most to facilitate foreign control of New Zealand), once again for his role in the Warner Brothers/”Hobbit” affair. “Sir Peter Jackson – you are fully worthy of joining that other blackened knight, that other exemplar in selling out your country to foreign corporations, the one for whom this award is named – Sir Roger Douglas”. So, a triple sweep for the movie industry – the Roger, the Accomplice and the Quisling. Says it all really, doesn’t it.
The Roger: The night’s big trophy for the Worst
Transnational Corporation Operating in Aotearoa/
New Zealand in 2010

Read and/or download

> Chief Judges’ Statement
> Judges’ Report Warner Brothers

> An Award Winning Performance

.....Financial Analysis - Warner
> Roger Award 2010 - the FULL Report

> Murray Horton's Event Speech

Also available
> Full list of nominees
> The criteria for judging
> The Judges

Water privatization does not yield cost savings


"Proponents of privatization consistently argue that it saves costs due to competitive pressures private providers face to be more efficient.  Over the last four decades there has been considerable experimentation with privatization.  Results are inconsistent.  Some cases find savings; others do not.  To get beyond the “battle of the case studies” my colleagues and I conducted a meta-analysis of all published studies on water distribution.   A comprehensive scientific analysis shows the value of a careful review of theory and empirical evidence in making policy choices. Our analysis found no empirical support for cost savings."
By Mildred E. Warner

You can read the entire article here or download it in PDF here

Also well worth checking out is Reclaiming Public Water a groundbreaking book on how reformed public water services can achieve the goal of delivering water for all. Downloadable by chapter.