Joe Higgins Column – The Socialist June 2008

Published Categorized as politics
Joe Higgins Column
Why you should Vote No to Lisbon

Joe Higgins

Workers Rights: Vote No to the “Race to the Bottom�. Lisbon will promote a “Race to the Bottom� aimed at driving down wages and boosting the superprofits of big business. It strengthens the so-called European Court of Justice to determine issues of conflict.

The ECJ has clearly demonstrated it is biased in favour of big business. Last December it ruled that unions had been in breach of European law when they picketed sites controlled by the Latvian company Laval at Vaxholm in Sweden in 2004 in protest at the company paying €9 an hour when the agreed industry rate was €16 an hour.

The court ruled that the only legally enforcable rate was the Swedish minimum wage and no more  –  that the normal employment agreements could not be imposed.Lisbon does nothing to hinder the ability of this court to hand down more such judgments which uphold the right of the big business at the expense of decent pay and conditions for workers throughout Europe.

Abolition of Veto on Trade in Services: Big business interests in the European Union want to be able to muscle in as of right on more public services to extend their profit making possibilities. Lisbon is a vehicle to help them in this.

Up until now if proposals came out of the EU commission that Health, Eductaion and Social Services would have to be opened up for multinational companies to move in, any Member State could block such proposals being forced on them. That is what is meant by exercising a Veto. The Lisbon Treaty removes that Veto.

Lisbon dictates that proposals for trade in public services  coming out of negotiations between the EU Commission and the World Trade organisation can be agreed by Qualified Majority Voting. There is an  exception: “in the field of trade in social, education and health services, where these agreements risk seriously disturbing the national organisation of such services and prejudicing the responsibility of member States to deliver them.�

Considering that the present government has given lucrative contracts in our health service to private companies convicted of fraud in the United States, no Irish government could credibly argue in Brussels that opening up our health service to more privatisation would “disturb� or “prejudice� their responsibility in this regard. In the event of a dispute arising in this area the European court of Justice would be called on to adjudicate. As we know from judgements handed down by this body in disputes between workers and exploitative employers, it can be expected to take the side of the rights of private business to trade and make profits.

The Yes Campaign is desperate to try and cover up the implications of the removal of the Veto. When they could no longer deny the fact of the removal , they sought refuge in what is called the “Protocol on Services of General Interest�. (“Services of general� interest is EU lingo for public services where a fee can be charged and Health is clearly categorised as such.)

A cursory look at this Protocol shows how flimsy their argument is. It merely states that  “shared values of the Union� include –“the essential role and the wide discretion of national, regional and local authorities in providing, commissioning and organising services of general economic interest  as closely as possible to the needs of the users.� This hardly amounts to a veto in disguise.

The Armaments  Industry: For the first time in an EU Treaty,  the EU armaments industry is given official status through the role of the European Defence Agency(EDA). A look at the EDA website is very instructive. It gives a function of the agency as: “creating a competitive European Defence Equipment Market and strengthening the European Defence, Technological and  Industrial Base.� What this means is that Lisbon is promoting major producers of weapons of awful destruction going onto the world stage flogging their merchandise to the elites of countries like Pakistan and India where the masses exist in abject poverty.  This is shameful in the extreme.

Generally Lisbon seeks to intensify hugely the militarisation of the EU to allow it to compete for international influence with a major power such as the United States.

The Socialist Party will continue to campaign vigorously on these issues and will continue the campaign, since, whether Lisbon is passed or not EU big business will continue to push the neo-liberal agenda of privatisation and erosion of workers’ rights in the pursuit of super profits.

Categorized as politics