L to R: Pierre Bouchard, USMCA Labour Chapter Lead Negotiator, Jerry Dias, Unifor National President, Steve Verheul, Canada’s Chief USMCA Negotiator, Brian Clow, Director, Canada-U.S. Relations at Office of the Prime Minister of Canada and Scott Doherty, Assistant to the Unifor National President.
Members of the Canadian negotiating team, federal MPs, political staff and trade beat reporters were all welcomed to the Unifor reception in recognition of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), held at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on October 30.
“This is the first time we have worked so closely with the labour movement,” said Canada’s Chief Negotiator Steve Verheul, who acknowledged Unifor National President Jerry Dias for his input during the difficult negotiation process.
“I think we realized that we had to get together as a country. We had a common interest, we had very different interests than our U.S. partners and we had to make sure that we were going to achieve our objectives as effectively as possible,” said Verheul. “I don’t think we could have achieved the outcome we did without that kind of united position, in particular from the labour side.”
On behalf of the federal government, Transportation Minister Marc Garneau thanked Unifor for its work while Quebec NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice congratulated Unifor for its leadership in protecting workers as the best deal possible was negotiated.
L to R: Chris MacDonald, Assistant to the Unifor National President, Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director, Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship and Maureen Dawson, Unifor National Representative.
Unifor National President Jerry Dias told those gathered that the union had an option when the negotiations for a new NAFTA first began - to sit on the sidelines and criticize or to get involved and do everything it could to push forward an agenda for working class people.
“It’s about having the opportunity to participate with those that respect your voice,” said Dias. While stating that the newly negotiated USMCA is far from perfect, Dias believes there was significant progress in bringing workers issues to the table during these trade negotiations.
“We’ve actually changed the discussion in the country about how we approach trade deals,” Dias said. “About how we need to move forward and about how working class people have to be taken into account in all the decisions that are being made and that’s why this set of negotiations was so different.”
The USMCA contains gains for the auto sector including increased rules of origin and higher wage thresholds in Mexico to rebalance auto manufacturing. The agreement also maintains third party dispute mechanisms and Canadian cultural protections, as well as improvements to energy and labour regulations.