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North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

Unifor supports full retaliation against U.S. tariffs

5/31/2018

TORONTO – Unifor applauds the swift imposition of retaliatory measures in response to punishing tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum exports to the U.S.

“Make no mistake — this is a full on trade war. The U.S. has systematically come after Canada’s aerospace, softwood, paper and now steel and aluminum industries,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “Unifor fully supports the action taken by the federal government to fight back on behalf of Canadian workers.”

Today U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that import duties of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum take effect tomorrow, June 1, 2018. The tariffs are being imposed under Section 232 of Trade Expansion Act, citing national security concerns. The U.S. had previously exempted Canada from the tariffs while renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement were taking place.  

“America didn’t get what it wanted at the NAFTA table so the Trump administration is using the absurd premise that imports from Canada constitute a security threat to America to lash out at Canada and Mexico,” said Dias. “The U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs will impact everything from beer cans to cars, with consumers and workers on both sides of the border paying the price.”

Quebec is a major supplier of aluminum while Ontario is a supplier of steel and automobiles. Unifor represents more than 40,000 workers in the auto industry and an additional 4,000 members in the aluminum sector, with 1,000 at Rio Tinto in British Columbia and the remaining 3,000 in Quebec.

“Unifor will back all necessary retaliatory measures to defend our pulp, paper, steel and aluminum industries from unwarranted tariffs and to fight for the interests of all Canadian workers,” said Renaud Gagné, Unifor Quebec Director.

To view Unifor’s position on trade visit unifor.org/peoplestrade. Information on the union’s campaign against pulp and paper tariffs is available here.

For more information, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org  or 416-896-3303 (cell).

Rush NAFTA deal at workers peril

4/9/2018

TORONTO – Amid hurried negotiations to meet an artificial deadline Unifor warns that a rushed North American Free Trade Agreement will put workers in peril.

“Canada must not be pushed into a hasty NAFTA deal that will impact workers and jobs for a generation to come,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “There is no reason to sign on to half-baked trade policies simply to meet foreign political agendas.” 

Reports that a deal “in principle” could be announced as early as this week raise serious concerns as key planks of the new NAFTA have yet to be negotiated.

“It defies logic to commit without knowing the ramification on auto and other major industries,” said Dias. “Multiple proposals on rules of origin are being floated so an agreement in principle right now is tantamount to signing a blank cheque.”

Unifor has assumed an active advisory role to Canadian negotiators with National President Jerry Dias in attendance for each round of NAFTA talks.

“This is the opportunity to fix the mistakes of past trade agreements so it’s imperative that Canada takes the time to get it right,” said Dias. “The labour chapter is still outstanding. If a new NAFTA continues to allow Mexican workers to be paid a fraction of what their Canadian and American counterparts make then the agreement won’t be worth the paper it’s signed on.”

Unifor has been a strong advocate for labour reform in Mexico, leading a delegation of Mexican labour leaders to lobby Canadian MPs in Ottawa last month. The union also sent a letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland to express opposition to regressive amendments to Mexico’s labour law, which are expected to be voted on this week.

For more information visit unifor.org/NAFTA.

Unifor hosts NAFTA: A Worker’s View Roundtable

3/28/2018

OTTAWA – Unifor National President Jerry Dias will host NAFTA: A Worker’s View Roundtable, featuring Mexican and Canadian labour leaders, Canada’s Chief NAFTA negotiator Steve Verheul and members of Canadian civil society groups.

“This is a critical time for the voices of workers to be heard on the true impact of NAFTA in both nations,” said Dias. “There is real danger that the sudden push by the U.S. for a rush deal could lead to a further deterioration of living standards for workers.”

WHAT:     Unifor trade roundtable on NAFTA: A Worker’s View

WHERE:  Lord Elgin Hotel, Pearson Ballroom 100 Elgin St, Ottawa, ON

WHEN:    Wednesday, March 28 10:45 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. ET

WHO:      Unifor National President Jerry Dias

                 Canada’s Chief NAFTA Negotiator Steve Verheul

                 Representatives from independent Mexican unions 

                Canadian civil society activists      

Media are invited to attend at 10:45 a.m. for a photo op of arrivals. The roundtable will be held in-camera with a scrum outside the ballroom at approximately 12:00 p.m.

The roundtable is part of Unifor’s NAFTA lobby week, which featured a joint delegation of Canadian and Mexican unionists meeting with Members of Parliament, representatives of the Standing Committee on International Trade and members of Canada’s NAFTA Labour negotiating team.

A list of Mexican worker demands for the renegotiation of NAFTA was presented in anticipation of the next round of talks, expected to take place in Washington D.C. next month.

Unifor and Mexican labour leaders join in NAFTA lobby

3/26/2018

OTTAWA – Unifor and Mexican labour leaders join together this week to warn MPs about the dangers of negotiating 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 Unifor 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.”

Unifor, leading a delegation of Mexican labour leaders, is in Ottawa March 26-29 to meet with Members of Parliament, representatives of the Standing Committee on International Trade and members of Canada’s NAFTA Labour negotiating team.  Unifor National President Jerry Dias will also host the “NAFTA: A Worker’s View” Roundtable on March 28.

“Of the NAFTA countries Mexico has been the most negatively impacted,” said Mónica Jiménez Acosta, representing the 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.”

The delegation brings a list of Mexican worker demands for the renegotiation of NAFTA ahead of the next round of talks, expected to take place in Washington D.C. next month.  The list of is also available in Spanish.

“We are calling on 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.

The Unifor led delegation will call for wage adjustments and enforcement of labour regulations to give workers the freedom to organize and defend the collective bargaining process.

“It is possible to have international agreements that protect and enshrine workers’ rights,” said José Olvera, Chairperson of International Relations, Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (university union).

For more information on Unifor’s NAFTA campaign, go to unifor.org/NAFTA

Trump holds Canadian steel and aluminum as NAFTA hostage

3/5/2018

MEXICO CITY –Unifor, Canada’s largest union in the private sector, says that President Trump has made it clear that Canada’s steel and aluminum industries are being held hostage to extort a NAFTA deal.

“Trump plainly stated that tariffs will only come off if Canada signs a NAFTA agreement to his liking,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “The question now is whether the Canadian government is going to submit to trade blackmail.”

Last week the U.S. announced plans to impose import duties of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum. Over the weekend White House National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro definitively stated there will be no country exclusions including Canada, the largest exporter of both steel and aluminum to the U.S.

 Unifor represents thousands of members in the steel and aluminum sectors, including 4,000 aluminum workers at Rio Tinto in British Columbia and Quebec in addition to 40,000 auto sector members. The union has already called for the federal government to walk away from NAFTA if Canada is not excluded from tariffs.

“The American’s have come after Canada on softwood, paper, aerospace and now steel and aluminum,” said Dias. “How much further proof do we need that the U.S. government is bargaining in bad faith?”

Ontario is a major supplier of steel and automobiles and Quebec is a key supplier of aluminum.  Sanctions will have a devastating effect on jobs in key industries and communities, and it will also directly impact the cost of items from cars to canned food.

Unifor reiterated its call to the federal government to take all necessary retaliatory measures to protect Canadian industries and jobs.

Without tariff exemption Canada must withdraw from NAFTA: Unifor

3/2/2018

March 2, 2018 

TORONTO – Unifor says if Canada fails to obtain an exemption from unjust and punitive tariffs on steel and aluminum exports to U.S. then the Canadian government has no choice but to withdraw from NAFTA renegotiations.

“If America imposes duties on steel and aluminum and Canada doesn’t walk away from NAFTA immediately then make no mistake we will no longer be negotiating, we’ll be capitulating,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.

Yesterday President Trump announced his intention to apply import duties of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum but it remains unclear if Canada, the largest supplier of both to the U.S., will be exempt.

Unifor calls on the federal government to take all necessary pre-emptive and, if required, retaliatory measures to protect Canadian jobs and industries.

Quebec is a key supplier of aluminum while Ontario is a major supplier of steel and automobiles. The union went on to warn that tariffs against Canada will also hurt the U.S. auto industry and result in higher costs for consumers on both sides of the border.

“The auto supply chain is completely intertwined. A cost increase of this magnitude will drive consumers directly into the arms of Japanese car makers,” said Dias.

Unifor represents more than 40,000 workers in the auto industry and thousands more working in the steel and aluminum sectors, including 1,000 at Rio Tinto in British Columbia and 3,000 aluminum workers in Quebec.

“It’s clear the U.S. is using tariffs as a trade weapon,” said Renaud Gagné, Unifor Quebec Director. “It’s no accident that these duties were announced while NAFTA talks are underway. The federal government must stand and fight, here and now, against this threat by the U.S. government and supporting stakeholders.” 

Dias and Gagné will be available for interviews in Mexico City during the remainder of Round 7 NAFTA negotiations.

Third Torex Gold strike related murder in Mexico

1/25/2018

TORONTO – Unifor is outraged at the murder of a third worker related to the strike against Canadian owned Torex Gold Resources in Mexico.

“Workers are being murdered for opposing Torex Gold and nothing is being done about it,” said National President Jerry Dias. “How many must die before corporations and corrupt Mexican unions are held accountable?”

Unifor demands that Mexican labour standards be immediately addressed at the current round of NAFTA negotiations in Montreal.  The union also calls for Torex Gold to be among the first Canadian companies to be examined by the newly announced Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise, responsible for investigating human rights abuses by Canadian corporations operating abroad.

According to the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Allied Workers of the Mexican Republic (Los Mineros), last week labour activist Quintin Salgado was on his way to meet strikers from Torex Gold’s Media Luna mine when he was intercepted and pulled from his vehicle. Salgado was beaten, his cell phone was destroyed and he was threatened with further violence if he kept advocating for a change of unions and a new contract. Yesterday that threat was realized when Salgado was brutally murdered.

Salgado’s death is the latest violence related to the strike at the Media Luna mine, where approximately 600 workers have been on strike since November 3, 2017 after they were prevented from leaving the corrupt Confederación de Trabajadores de México (CTM) union to join Los Mineros.  In November, 2017, Dias visited the picketed barricade where brothers Víctor and Marcelino Sahuanitla Peña were also murdered by an armed group believed to be affiliated with the CTM union.

On January 15, 2018 Torex Gold announced a re-start of the Media Luna mine with the full cooperation of the CTM and Mexican police from the Federal Gendarmerie.

“International corporations have abused Mexican workers with impunity for far too long,” said Dias. “NAFTA has to contain protections to stop human rights violations and raise living standards in Mexico."

Unifor March for a Better NAFTA

1/22/2018

Montreal – Unifor invites its members and the general public to join the March for a Better NAFTA to demand an agreement that protects good jobs, and respects labour, environmental, and democratic rights.

WHAT:    March for a Better NAFTA

WHERE: Rallying point at Dorchester Square (on Metcalfe north of René-Lévesque Blvd.)

WHEN:   Tuesday, January 23, 2018 11:00 a.m. ET

WHO:      Jerry Dias, Unifor National President

                Renaud Gagné, Unifor Quebec Director

Marchers will be led by Unifor National President, Jerry Dias and Unifor’s Quebec Director, Renaud Gagné. After rallying at Dorchester Square the demonstrators will march to the Bonaventure Hotel, where Round Six of NAFTA renegotiations are being held.

NAFTA continues to erode the rights of working men and women in North America. Good jobs are on the chopping block in the NAFTA renegotiations while the U.S. has launched unfair attacks on the aerospace, forestry and pulp and paper, automobile, aluminum and several other sectors.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

Unifor and United Auto Workers meet Minister Freeland on NAFTA

8/24/2017

Toronto – Unifor and the United Auto Workers will meet with Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland to discuss preparations for the upcoming round of North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations.

"The next talks in Mexico will be key" said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. "We got past the formalities in round one in Washington, now it's time to start seeing some cards on the table."

Unifor and the United Auto Workers, representing auto workers at the Detroit Three in Canada and the U.S., released a joint statement on NAFTA last month.

On Friday, August 25, Unifor National President Jerry Dias and United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams will meet with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Minister Freeland will be available for a joint photo opportunity prior to the meeting.  Dias and Williams will be available for comment at the conclusion of the meeting. 

WHAT:                 Unifor and United Auto Workers hold NAFTA meeting with Minister Freeland

WHO:                   Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Unifor National President Jerry Dias, United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams

WHERE:               Minister Freeland's Regional Office, 150 King Street West, 24th Floor, Suite 2404, Toronto, ON

                       WHEN:                 11:00 a.m.  Friday August 25

               Media to arrive by 10:30 a.m.

Unifor welcomes start of NAFTA renegotiation

8/16/2017

WASHINGTON – Unifor welcomes the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, as talks get underway in Washington, D.C.

“It was made clear today that the United States is not interested in a few tweaks,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “It believes NAFTA has failed workers and that a major overhaul is required, which is exactly what Unifor has been saying for years.”

Unifor, Canada’s largest union in the private sector, is making its voice heard as the long-awaited renegotiation process begins. Dias is currently in Washington, D.C. as a member of the stakeholders group offering advice to the Canadian negotiators.

“The fate of many good paying jobs and even entire industries are at stake,” said Dias. “It’s incredibly important that Canada gets it right at the negotiating table otherwise we’ll pay for another generation.” 

The union has played an active role in the lead up to the negotiations. Dias has already met with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross twice to press Unifor’s case that any new NAFTA must address the needs of workers and their communities.

Click here to read Unifor’s submission on NAFTA priorities.

No new NAFTA without strong labour and environmental provisions: Unifor

8/14/2017

TORONTO – Canada must be prepared to walk away from the table if meaningful and enforceable labour, gender and Indigenous rights, as well as environmental protections cannot be achieved in a renewed North American Free Trade Agreement, Unifor says.

“Workers and their communities must be at the core of the new deal being negotiated,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias said. “This needs to be more than just words or an opening stance for our negotiators. We have a once-in-a-generation chance to fix NAFTA to raise wages and work standards. Without strong and enforceable protections, Canada should walk away from the table.”

On the eve of renegotiating talks to begin this week in Washington, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland this morning outlined the Canadian negotiating team’s top priorities for the talks, often touting Canada-European Union Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

"Canada must do much better than it has with past deals, including CETA, on labour and other provisions,” Dias said. “There can be no tweaking or minor adjustments to NAFTA. Real and substantive changes are needed.”

Dias called for the removal from NAFTA of Chapter 11, which gives companies the right to sue governments if regulations hurt profits. A similar provision in CETA is weak and still hands too much power to corporations, he said.

Strong language is also needed to ensure governments can direct public procurement to local businesses, Dias said. “Procurement rules are the lifeblood for thousands of workers and their communities, and a responsible use of public dollars to support jobs at home,” Dias said.

Dias was also concerned that there was no mention of challenges facing Canada’s auto industry in the Minister’s outline of priorities, beyond outlining how many jobs one company provided.

“The unequal growth in jobs and investment in auto and other manufacturing needs to be acknowledged and addressed by our negotiators going into these talks,” Dais said.

Dias welcomed the commitment to protect Canada’s cultural exemption and its supply managed sectors, saying these are sources of good jobs for many Canadians and need to be protected.