- Published: September 7, 2022
- Updated: September 7, 2022
- Language: English
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The ongoing North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA) negotiations are implicating many essential sectors of Canadianeconomy. Since 1994, NAFTA has had significant impact on Canadian economy andlabour. One of Canada’s largest private sector union is Unifor, representingfive of the most important economy sectors for Canadians; communication, transportation, resources, manufacturing, and services. Unifor is activelyparticipating in activities related to the current negotiations, as majority ofthe unions’ members will be affected by the turn out of theses negotiations.
NAFTAis contributing to the changes for the private and public sectors, workers, farmers and consumers. The relation of the U. S., Canada, and Mexico hassignificantly changed since the presence of Trump in the negotiations since hashad a much different and more negative perspective of what the agreementbetween these three countries has accomplished. This case study will review the presence of Uniforas a leader for workers benefits and its general impact and perspective of thepast and present NAFTA negotiations, who they are and what is their mainobjective. Moreover, it is important toinclude their strategy and where they stand when it comes to NAFTAnegotiations, as the union of Canada’s most important economic sectors andtheir strategies. Lastly, I will discuss the actions taken by Unifor and theirrecommendations for revisions.
History, Mission, and Structure2013 marks the year Unifor was created from themerge of the Canadian Auto workers’ union (CAW) and the Communication, Energyand Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP). The project was created from aninformal discussion between Ken Lawenza, former CAW president, and Dave Coles, former CEP president. After 20 months of preparation for an inclusive workers’ unionbegan Unifor (Unifor, n.
d.). Consequently, Unifor marked the change of a corporate-led society that had caused the declinein workers’ regulations, benefits, safety, and security. Their strength isdefined by the union of all major Canadian economy sectors under one unionizedumbrella. Participating actively in social and political development in theircommunities but most importantly supporting workers of all sectors. As Canada’slargest private sector union, it now regroups over 315 000 members in Canada. 1 Theinception of Unifor is providing workers with the possibility to secure theirfuture during changing times, especially since NAFTA’s ratification in 1994.
Bringing hope for social justice and a powerful voice for all workers. The goalrevolved around providing the best possible working conditions for allCanadians workers. Unifor’s mission is to “ protect the economic rightsof our members and every member of the workforce (employed or unemployed). Theyare committed to building the strongest and most effective union to bargain onbehalf of members, working with their members to improve their rights in theworkplace, and extending the benefits of unions to non-unionized workers andother interested Canadians” (Unifor, n. d.
). The mission mainlyrevolves around the conditions of workers who are part of the main economysectors. Unifor regroups all economy sectors but alsodistributes its services across Canada; the Atlantic regroups 30 000 members, Ontario as the larger region with 159 400 members, Québec for 53 000 workers, and the western regions including 70 000 members.
2 Additionally, each region is equally represented by their own Regional Directors underUnifor’s National Executive Board. Jerry Dias, was elected as the first andonly National President. Each region is represented by their RegionalChairpersons the same way each sector is represented by Industry Councilrepresentatives for forestry, resource, telecommunication, rail, energy, retail, health care, hospitality and gaming, auto, media, and aviation. Inaddition to representatives for skilled trades, retired workers, and aboriginaland workers of color. 3 Alignedwith Unifor’s values, there is fair representation for each region andindustry.
Unifor’s work doesn’t just stop at workers right and job safety, butalso extends its work in communities, internationally, for women, retiredworkers, and human rights. They offer programs related to education andtrainings and invest importantly for research in the economy sectors. NAFTAnegotiations and where Unifor standsThe North American Free Trade agreement has not beenrenegotiated since 1994, when it was first instituted. Since then, the economyhas certainly evolved, our relation with the party of interest, Mexico and theUnited-States as certainly changed but most definitely, workers job hasdrastically changed and tried to adapt itself with the changing times. Afterthe election of the 45th President of the United States, DonaldTrump, the NAFTA was bound to be revised especially after Donald Trumpqualified it as “ the worst trade deal in the history of the world” (Jagannathan, 2017). Unifor may not agree with President Trump’s values and ideals, but they can notdeny their agreement with the necessity for a revised NAFTA. This trade dealhas significantly impacted the Canadian economy and affected the jobs of manyworkers and industries especially those dependent on export. During therevision of this trade agreement, Unifor is present with its NationalPresident, Jerry Dias, who attends each round of negotiations “ as a member ofthe stakeholders group offering advice to the Canadian negotiators” (Unifor, 2017).
Dias position inthe negotiations is in favour of workers’ conditions “ there can be no renewedNAFTA without trilateral commitment and compliance to higher labour standards” (Unifor, 2017). NAFTA of the 20thcentury was centralized on capital gain empowering the position of corporationsand businesses in the economy at the detriment of labour forces. Additionally, the presence of Mexico in this trade deal encourages multinationals to movetheir productions to sectors that have flaccid regulations. It is anopportunity for businesses to meet the means for higher ends. Workforce areinexpensive which has threatened many manufacturing companies to transfer jobsoff-shore.
This consequently provokes job losses, companies closing doors andthe lack of job safety for Canadian workers. This relates directly to the Trumpadministration and their protectionist ideals. Keeping jobs at home, which heencouraged massively during his presidential campaign. This alternative givegreat hope to increase the job opportunities for Americans, however may causeincrease in labour cost as well and consequently living costs. As therenegotiations are still ongoing and most of the agenda is kept under secrecynot even Canadians are quite aware of what shall be of the 21stcentury NAFTA for Canadian economy and labour. In 2013 only,$472 billion worth of foods have been exported around the world rating betweenunprocessed minerals to finished products (Unifor Research Department, 2014, p.
2). The most important economic sectors of Canada have been negatively impacted sincethe inception of the trade deal. With the supply management policies farmershave the ability to negotiate the price of their products; eggs, poultry, andmilk. The Dairy sector is targeted due to the issues of Americans and ourmanagement functions.
Deficit in agriculture and food manufacture are resultsof increase in food imports from the U. S. and Mexico, which NAFTA made possiblewith trade.
Environmental goals are even affected. In the sector of energy andmining due the Chapter 6 and an agreement to a proportionality clause whichrestrict the ability for Canada to reduce energy shipment to our neighbours ofthe south. Auto manufacture is the perfect example of off-shoring of labour. Mexicoprovides low wages and minimal regulations.
However, Mexican autoworkers can’teven afford the cars they build, another ideal for means to higher ends (Unifor, 2017). The main reason why Unifor is actively involved in thecurrent renegotiations is because “ About two-thirds of Unifor members work intrade-related or trade-dependent industries such as manufacturing, resources, forestry and logistics – key drivers of middle class jobs” (Unifor, n. d.). The criticismagainst NAFTA is strong from Unifor, however what must come next to improve it? As discussed above, Unifor has invested long and thorough research on theeffect of NAFTA and how it can be improved. For the benefit of companies, workers, and Canadian Economy, there are specific principles that Unifor has definedwhich would improve in many ways the impact of NAFTA on the three areasmentioned above. These principles are how we would be able to rebalance theequity between capital and labour, where capital is the main priority of thecurrent trade regime.
The principles discussed are defined as so: Fairness, transparency, inclusiveness, mutual benefit, protection of public services, industrial and social development, cultural sovereignty, no investment chapter, worker’s rights, respect and protect indigenous rights, sustainability, autonomy, and national self-determination (Unifor Research Department, 2014, pp. 9-11). Unifor as defined these principles mainly in the hope that a reform wouldbenefit the workers condition and the future of Canadian economy.
They alsohave made concrete proposition to the NAFTA revision, ones that are meant torebalance the long-term objectives of NAFTA’s regulations. Under the ‘ UniforPosition Statement on the Renegotiation of the North American Free TradeAgreement’4the union clearly stated what they expecting to be included or removed from therenegotiations. Here are just a few main examples: § Theelimination of NAFTA Chapter 11, and the extraordinary investor privilegeswithin (page 9);§ Boldnew rules for cross-border trade in auto and auto parts, including stricterrules of origin, higher labour and wage standards, a greater balance in tradeand investment and a fair share of benefit for workers in each country (Page9);§ Assurancesthat public services such as health and education are explicitly carved out ofNAFTA (Page 16);§ Thefull elimination of Articles 315 and 605 (or “ energy proportionality”) from theNAFTA – the clause requiring Canada to continue oil and gas exports to theU. S.
, even in the event of a shortage – as a condition of settlement (Page 17);§ Anew continental standard on the use of domestic purchasing policies, reflectinggovernments ability to direct public procurement to domestic suppliers in fairand equitable way (Page 18);(Unifor, 2017, pp. 3-4)Andthe list goes on. Even through these propositions the mission of Uniforremains: the needs of workers must be put first, nothing less. Equity andsocial justice are at order for a progressive trade deal. “ If ‘ free trade’ isintended to create wealth and prosperity, it should not undermine workstandards, collective bargaining or the fundamental tenets of democracy” (Unifor Research Department, 2014, p. 6)Recommendationsand actions taken by UniforTimes are changing rapidly, there is this continuousevolution of communications, economics, social development, but NAFTA seems toremain a project from a neoliberalist era that hasn’t evolved with the times. The critic of Unifor is clear, change is much overdue.
Nonetheless, theiractions are as present. Referring to Unifor’s position statement, there are setpoints that must be changed and clear propositions are made by them asrecommendations for revisions. 5Unifor promise of change doesn’t come without a clear plan.
“ Unifor says itwill spend $50 million over five years to organize more workers into unions. That’s an amazing commitment. Combined with a public campaign to promotehigh-paying jobs and an appropriate industrial strategy, such a drive couldhave a real impact” (Dobbin, 2013, p. 25). Not only in favourof NAFTA renegotiations, but in favour of all socio-economic improvementsUnifor is an active participant. Via campaigns, coalitions, people’s trade orGood Jobs, Unifor acts for more positively impacted communities. On October 19th 2017, Unifor organizedrallies across Canada in order to perpetuate the progressive agenda and fornegotiators to stick to these said progressive ideals. Other actions includethe open letter sent to the Trade Representative of the United States, RobertLighthizer, discussing labour standards6, the positioning statement on NAFTA discussed previously with clearrecommendations for revisions, or the Panel discussion of November 17th, 2017 in which Unifor advised that they have joined with Mexican workers forincreased standards of living and eradication of workers’ exploitation inMexico7Briefs, Articles, Research, Media Releases from Unifor§ Unifor’swebsite section specialized on NAFTA.
8§ Uniforfor a Better NAFTA: Fixing NAFTA9§ Autoindustry and NAFTA10§ November27th 2017, No NAFTA without Mexican labour reform: Unifor. 11§ November21st 2017, Canada Needs A Progressive Trade Agenda That’s More ThanJust Words. 12§ October20th 2017, Unifor and U. S.
Commerce Secretary agree on key NAFTAstrategy. 13ConclusionAs the renegotiations of NAFTA are ongoing, Uniforreally defines their presence in the process. They are active supports of workers’conditions and positive socio-economic progress. As the main representative ofthe most important sectors of Canadian economy that are affected by the NAFTA, they are aware of the possible impact to these industries. They work forcontinuous improvement and provide clear recommendations for change. From itsinception, the goal of Unifor remains around the possibility to enhance workers’conditions ranging from salary equity, job security and safety, EI, etc.
Since1994, NAFTA impact has been quite ambiguous. The trade deal was mainly based onregulations that benefits corporations and businesses than the workforce. Unifor as well drafted specific revisions point for the renegotiations and withtheir presence during these negotiations they hold a powerful impact ondiscussion, additionally to being the representative of members across Canada.
Nothing can yet be defined of the future impact of NAFTA 2. 0, it was clearlyreviewed that its inception in 1994 requires revision, which Trump initiated in2017. Unifor remains an important actor for the major sector of Canadianeconomy during NAFTA renegotiations. The future impacts are yet to bedetermined.
References Dobbin, M. (2013, October). Creation of Unifor model for a revitalized labour movement. The Economy, Labour, and the 2015 Election, pp. 24-25. Retrieved from http://0-eds. b. ebscohost.
com. mercury. concordia.
ca/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer? vid= 1= 8d2e1d6f-97b8-4d37-877c-e92d21540e47%40sessionmgr103 Jagannathan, M. (2017, April 27). All the terrible things president trimp has said about NAFTA.
Daily News. Retrieved from http://www. nydailynews. com/news/politics/terrible-president-trump-nafta-article-1. 3107104 Unifor. (2017). NAFTA.
Retrieved from Unifor the Union: https://www. unifor. org/en/nafta Unifor. (2017, July). Unifor position statement on the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Retrieved from http://www. unifor. org/sites/default/files/attachments/uniforstatement_nafta_final_formatted2. pdf Unifor. (n. d.
). Hisotry and Mission. Retrieved from Unifor the Union: https://www. unifor.
org/en/about-unifor/history-mission Unifor. (n. d.
). People’s Trade. Retrieved from Unifor the Union: https://www. unifor. org/en/take-action/campaigns/peoples-trade Unifor Research Department.
(2014, September). Imagining a faire trade future. Retrieved from https://www. unifor. org/sites/default/files/documents/document/trade_paper_engwcovercol. pdf 1 Total members, https://www. unifor. org/en/about-unifor2 Proportion of Unifor members across Canada, https://www. unifor. org/en/member-services/sectors3 Existing role in Unifor structure, how inclusive they are ofminorities, https://www. unifor. org/en/about-unifor/meet-leadership4 Position Statement issued to Canadian Government, http://www. unifor. org/sites/default/files/attachments/uniforstatement_nafta_final_formatted2. pdf5 Ibis. 6 Open letter addressed to express the importance of labour standardsin renegotiations http://www. unifor. org/sites/default/files/attachments/robert_lighthizer. pdf7 Panel held in Mexico where Unifor and Mexico labour force united, http://www. unifor. org/en/whats-new/press-room/unifor-unites-mexican-workers-nafta-talks-resume8 http://www. unifor. org/en/nafta9 http://www. unifor. org/sites/default/files/documents/document/unifor_nafta_leave_eng-f. pdf10 http://www. unifor. org/sites/default/files/documents/document/2017-02-update_on_auto_and_nafta-en. pdf11 http://www. unifor. org/en/whats-new/press-room/no-nafta-without-mexican-labour-reform-unifor12 http://www. unifor. org/en/blog/canada-needs-a-progressive-trade-agenda-thats-more-just-words 13 http://www. unifor. org/en/whats-new/press-room/unifor-and-us-commerce-secretary-agree-key-nafta-strategy
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