TORONTO, Oct. 5, 2015 /CNW/ - Unifor has denounced the Harper Conservatives for signing a Trans-Pacific Partnership which will put an estimated 20,000 Canadian auto jobs at risk, at a time when it is supposed to be a "caretaker" government.
Today the Harper Conservatives announced that a deal had been reached among the 12 members countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
"This is a trade deal that will have a significant impact on Canada. It will replace the NAFTA, our most important trade relationship. And all the signs point to the TPP posing a major threat to good-paying jobs in Canada," said Unifor National President, Jerry Dias.
Unifor expressed shock that the Harper Conservatives accepted a 5-year phase out of tariffs on imports of passenger vehicles given that reports indicate that the US cut a deal with Japan that allows for a phase out of their tariff over at least 20 years.
Automotive content rules have been a major controversy in TPP talks, since the U.S. and Japan made a side deal to weaken content rules fare below provisions in the NAFTA.
Few specific details of the TPP have been released. However, it is clear that there have been dramatic reductions in the content rules. Required vehicle content has been reduced to just 45% (compared to 62.5% at present under NAFTA). In parts, average content thresholds will be even lower (compared to 60% under NAFTA); federal government documents have not yet released the full set of parts content rules.
"It is outrageous that the Harper Conservatives have signed a deal that would allow the majority of a car to be made in China, yet still come into Canada tariff-free," said Dias.
Unifor estimates that this deal represents the potential loss of as much as one-fifth of the value-added content of a typical vehicle – relocating not just out of North America, but right out of the TPP zone altogether.
"No spin from the Harper Conservatives to claim the TPP as a victory can be taken seriously when upwards of 20,000 auto jobs are going to be lost," said Dias.
Unifor has indicated it will make a formal assessment of the job losses in the auto sector once more details of the deal have been released.
"The Harper Conservatives pledged that they would not sign a deal that was a threat to Canada's auto industry – and yet, I fear they have done exactly that," said Dias. "It is outrageous that in the final days of an election a "caretaker" government would sign such an important deal. This is grossly undemocratic – but that's what we've come to expect from the Harper Conservatives."
Unifor has also expressed concern about other aspects of the TPP, including the impact of tighter patent laws on drug prices, its inclusion of anti-democratic investor-state dispute courts, and major concessions on dairy and poultry marketing boards.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers, including 40,000 in the auto sector. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.