An analysis by the TUC of an international global rights report has found that the UK government is in active trade talks with 13 countries where there is no guarantee of workers’ rights.

These countries include Brazil (which is listed in the report as being among the ten worst countries for workers), India, Israel (for its treatment of Palestinian workers in Israel and the illegal occupied territories) and all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which the UK started to negotiate with in late June. The TUC is therefore calling on the UK to suspend the trade talks with these countries.

The union body’s analysis of the 2022 ITUC Global Rights Index which is published annually also reveals that, of the 67 non-EU countries with whom the government has already negotiated trade deals:

  • Five are listed among the ten worst countries in the world for workers (Colombia, Egypt, Eswatini, Guatemala, Turkey).
  • Ten are placed among the 44 countries where there is “no guarantee of workers’ rights” whatsoever, including Ecuador, Jordan and Korea.
  • Eight are placed among the 38 countries where there is “systematic violation of workers’ rights”, including Australia, Cameroon and Vietnam.

Noting that “time and time again” the government has agreed trade deals with no enforceable labour standards, the union body warns that continued failure to properly consult unions in trade talks is leaving workers around the world worse off. It is, therefore, calling on the UK to suspend the trade talks.

The TUC also points out that trade deals can have a significant impact on workers' jobs and rights – but without the right protections, they can lead to a race to the bottom on standards and displace good jobs. Hence the need for trade unions to be at the table to make sure that the deals are in workers’ interests.

However, the UK government has not even confirmed all of the TUC’s union nominees for its Trade Advisory Groups that are supposed to be consulted with regard to the text of trade negotiations. As a result, trade unions still don’t have seats on these influential groups, only businesses.

The TUC is, therefore, calling on the government to make good on its promise to include unions in these important Trade Advisory Groups, which it first made 18 months ago.

To read the ITUC report in full, click here

To access the current list of UK trade deals with non-EU countries, click here