Unifor and Mexican labour leaders joined together this week to warn Members of Parliament about the dangers of renegotiating a NAFTA deal that fails to protect workers in both countries.
“The old NAFTA model was built on exploitation, as Canadian manufacturing jobs migrated to Mexico where multinationals are permitted to pay workers poverty wages,” said National President Jerry Dias. “If a new NAFTA does not address low wages and labour rights in Mexico then both Canadian and Mexican workers will continue to pay the price.”
The Unifor led delegation of Mexican labour leaders lobbied in Ottawa March 26-29, meeting with Members of Parliament, representatives of the Standing Committee on International Trade, including Tracey Ramsey NDP’s Trade Critic and Unifor member, along with members of Canada’s NAFTA Labour negotiating team.
“Of the NAFTA countries Mexico has been the most negatively impacted,” said Mónica Jiménez Acosta, representing Mexicano de Electricistas (electricians) union. “Our currency and purchasing power has decreased, our quality of life has decreased and rights have been taken from us that took years to achieve.”
A list of Mexican worker demands for the renegotiation of NAFTA was presented ahead of the next round of talks, expected to take place in Washington D.C. next month.
“We are calling for your help as Mexico’s voice is only listened to when international voices are raised up,” said Telephonists Union Foreign Relations Representative Maria del Carmen llamas Montes.
As part of the lobby week Unifor hosted the “NAFTA: A Worker’s View Roundtable”, which brought Mexican labour leaders and representatives from Canadian civil society groups together with Canada’s Chief NAFTA negotiator Steve Verheul to share experiences and concerns on the renegotiation of the trade agreement.
National President Jerry Dias hosted the roundtable and was joined by Atlantic Regional Director Lana Payne, Western Reginal Director Joie Warnock, and the Quebec Director Renaud Gagné.
“Unifor’s lobby group was able to take a direct message to negotiators that strong labour standards are needed in any new deal,” said Gagné.
During the discussion Mexican delegates shared how NAFTA has led to low wage precarious jobs, child labour, reduced purchasing power and a lack of independent unions.
“This was a wonderful opportunity for Mexican and Canadian unionists, along with members of Canadian civil society groups, to discuss the true impact of NAFTA on the lives of workers in both nations,” said Payne.
Warnock agreed calling the joint lobby effort a testament to Unifor’s international solidarity.
“To achieve real change workers must unite in the fight against trade agreements that lower living standards across the board,” said Warnock.