British, US unions collaborate on private health care - January 14, 2010

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In the United States, Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom heated debates on health care take place and unions in both countries have joined forces for that reason. They have set up the global union "Workers Uniting", organized three million trade union members by Unite in Britain and the United Steelworkers in North America.

In the UK the government is trying to introduce private bidders into the government-run National Health System (NHS), and in the US president Barak Obama is trying to reform its healthcare systems. In both countries the same companies are trying to get a part of the action and "Workers Uniting" wants to organize workers' interest here.

The initiative is part of a trend, where trade unions try to follow companies in a fast globalizing economy.

In November the German trade union Verdi started to represent US employees at T-Mobile in negotiations with Deutsche Telekom.

From statements of both unions:

Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary of Unite, said: “Just as Workers Uniting is fighting to win healthcare for all in the US, we are also working to prevent the profits-over-people privatisation of the UK health system. “That is why the global union is launching an investigation of the preferred bidders chosen by the Department of Health to work within the NHS. Union activists from primary care trusts all over the UK are worried about the creeping privatisation of NHS services.” 

Carol Landry, international vice president of the USW, said: “In the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, the fight boils down to essentially the same thing: winning and protecting fair access to quality health care for all. Millions of workers from around the world believe now is the time to stop putting profits over people and to recognise that healthcare is a human right, no matter where you live. 

While health care has the main focus of the new alliance, disappearing jobs and the economic crisis are also on the agenda for cooperation.

Source: Tribune Magazine.

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