The important economic sectors and their strategies. Lastly,

The ongoing North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA) negotiations are implicating many essential sectors of Canadian
economy. Since 1994, NAFTA has had significant impact on Canadian economy and
labour. One of Canada’s largest private sector union is Unifor, representing
five of the most important economy sectors for Canadians; communication,
transportation, resources, manufacturing, and services. Unifor is actively
participating in activities related to the current negotiations, as majority of
the unions’ members will be affected by the turn out of theses negotiations. NAFTA
is contributing to the changes for the private and public sectors, workers,
farmers and consumers. The relation of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico has
significantly changed since the presence of Trump in the negotiations since has
had a much different and more negative perspective of what the agreement
between these three countries has accomplished.

This case study will review the presence of Unifor
as a leader for workers benefits and its general impact and perspective of the
past and present NAFTA negotiations, who they are and what is their main
objective.  Moreover, it is important to
include their strategy and where they stand when it comes to NAFTA
negotiations, as the union of Canada’s most important economic sectors and
their strategies. Lastly, I will discuss the actions taken by Unifor and their
recommendations for revisions.

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History,
Mission, and Structure

2013 marks the year Unifor was created from the
merge of the Canadian Auto workers’ union (CAW) and the Communication, Energy
and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP). The project was created from an
informal discussion between Ken Lawenza, former CAW president, and Dave Coles,
former CEP president. After 20 months of preparation for an inclusive workers’ union
began Unifor (Unifor, n.d.). Consequently,
Unifor marked the change of a corporate-led society that had caused the decline
in workers’ regulations, benefits, safety, and security. Their strength is
defined by the union of all major Canadian economy sectors under one unionized
umbrella. Participating actively in social and political development in their
communities but most importantly supporting workers of all sectors. As Canada’s
largest private sector union, it now regroups over 315 000 members in Canada.1 The
inception of Unifor is providing workers with the possibility to secure their
future during changing times, especially since NAFTA’s ratification in 1994.
Bringing hope for social justice and a powerful voice for all workers. The goal
revolved around providing the best possible working conditions for all
Canadians workers.

Unifor’s mission is to “protect the economic rights
of our members and every member of the workforce (employed or unemployed). They
are committed to building the strongest and most effective union to bargain on
behalf of members, working with their members to improve their rights in the
workplace, and extending the benefits of unions to non-unionized workers and
other interested Canadians” (Unifor, n.d.). The mission mainly
revolves around the conditions of workers who are part of the main economy
sectors.   

Unifor regroups all economy sectors but also
distributes 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 under
Unifor’s National Executive Board. Jerry Dias, was elected as the first and
only National President. Each region is represented by their Regional
Chairpersons the same way each sector is represented by Industry Council
representatives for forestry, resource, telecommunication, rail, energy,
retail, health care, hospitality and gaming, auto, media, and aviation. In
addition to representatives for skilled trades, retired workers, and aboriginal
and workers of color.3 Aligned
with Unifor’s values, there is fair representation for each region and
industry. Unifor’s work doesn’t just stop at workers right and job safety, but
also extends its work in communities, internationally, for women, retired
workers, and human rights. They offer programs related to education and
trainings and invest importantly for research in the economy sectors.

NAFTA
negotiations and where Unifor stands

The North American Free Trade agreement has not been
renegotiated since 1994, when it was first instituted. Since then, the economy
has certainly evolved, our relation with the party of interest, Mexico and the
United-States as certainly changed but most definitely, workers job has
drastically changed and tried to adapt itself with the changing times. After
the election of the 45th President of the United States, Donald
Trump, the NAFTA was bound to be revised especially after Donald Trump
qualified 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 not
deny their agreement with the necessity for a revised NAFTA. This trade deal
has significantly impacted the Canadian economy and affected the jobs of many
workers and industries especially those dependent on export. During the
revision of this trade agreement, Unifor is present with its National
President, Jerry Dias, who attends each round of negotiations “as a member of
the stakeholders group offering advice to the Canadian negotiators” (Unifor, 2017). Dias position in
the negotiations is in favour of workers’ conditions “there can be no renewed
NAFTA without trilateral commitment and compliance to higher labour standards” (Unifor, 2017). NAFTA of the 20th
century was centralized on capital gain empowering the position of corporations
and businesses in the economy at the detriment of labour forces. Additionally,
the presence of Mexico in this trade deal encourages multinationals to move
their productions to sectors that have flaccid regulations. It is an
opportunity for businesses to meet the means for higher ends. Workforce are
inexpensive which has threatened many manufacturing companies to transfer jobs
off-shore. This consequently provokes job losses, companies closing doors and
the lack of job safety for Canadian workers. This relates directly to the Trump
administration and their protectionist ideals. Keeping jobs at home, which he
encouraged massively during his presidential campaign. This alternative give
great hope to increase the job opportunities for Americans, however may cause
increase in labour cost as well and consequently living costs. As the
renegotiations are still ongoing and most of the agenda is kept under secrecy
not even Canadians are quite aware of what shall be of the 21st
century NAFTA for Canadian economy and labour.

In 2013 only,
$472 billion worth of foods have been exported around the world rating between
unprocessed minerals to finished products (Unifor Research Department, 2014,
p. 2).
The most important economic sectors of Canada have been negatively impacted since
the inception of the trade deal. With the supply management policies farmers
have the ability to negotiate the price of their products; eggs, poultry, and
milk. The Dairy sector is targeted due to the issues of Americans and our
management functions. Deficit in agriculture and food manufacture are results
of increase in food imports from the U.S. and Mexico, which NAFTA made possible
with trade. Environmental goals are even affected. In the sector of energy and
mining due the Chapter 6 and an agreement to a proportionality clause which
restrict the ability for Canada to reduce energy shipment to our neighbours of
the south. Auto manufacture is the perfect example of off-shoring of labour. Mexico
provides low wages and minimal regulations. However, Mexican autoworkers can’t
even afford the cars they build, another ideal for means to higher ends (Unifor, 2017).

The main reason why Unifor is actively involved in the
current renegotiations is because “About two-thirds of Unifor members work in
trade-related or trade-dependent industries such as manufacturing, resources,
forestry and logistics – key drivers of middle class jobs” (Unifor, n.d.). The criticism
against NAFTA is strong from Unifor, however what must come next to improve it?
As discussed above, Unifor has invested long and thorough research on the
effect of NAFTA and how it can be improved. For the benefit of companies, workers,
and Canadian Economy, there are specific principles that Unifor has defined
which would improve in many ways the impact of NAFTA on the three areas
mentioned above. These principles are how we would be able to rebalance the
equity between capital and labour, where capital is the main priority of the
current 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 would
benefit the workers condition and the future of Canadian economy. They also
have made concrete proposition to the NAFTA revision, ones that are meant to
rebalance the long-term objectives of NAFTA’s regulations. Under the ‘Unifor
Position Statement on the Renegotiation of the North American Free Trade
Agreement’4
the union clearly stated what they expecting to be included or removed from the
renegotiations. Here are just a few main examples:

§  The
elimination of NAFTA Chapter 11, and the extraordinary investor privileges
within (page 9);

§  Bold
new rules for cross-border trade in auto and auto parts, including stricter
rules of origin, higher labour and wage standards, a greater balance in trade
and investment and a fair share of benefit for workers in each country (Page
9);

§  Assurances
that public services such as health and education are explicitly carved out of
NAFTA (Page 16);

§  The
full elimination of Articles 315 and 605 (or “energy proportionality”) from the
NAFTA – the clause requiring Canada to continue oil and gas exports to the
U.S., even in the event of a shortage – as a condition of settlement (Page 17);

§  A
new continental standard on the use of domestic purchasing policies, reflecting
governments ability to direct public procurement to domestic suppliers in fair
and equitable way (Page 18);

(Unifor,
2017, pp. 3-4)

And
the list goes on. Even through these propositions the mission of Unifor
remains: the needs of workers must be put first, nothing less. Equity and
social justice are at order for a progressive trade deal. “If ‘free trade’ is
intended to create wealth and prosperity, it should not undermine work
standards, collective bargaining or the fundamental tenets of democracy” (Unifor
Research Department, 2014, p. 6)

Recommendations
and actions taken by Unifor

Times are changing rapidly, there is this continuous
evolution of communications, economics, social development, but NAFTA seems to
remain a project from a neoliberalist era that hasn’t evolved with the times.
The critic of Unifor is clear, change is much overdue. Nonetheless, their
actions are as present. Referring to Unifor’s position statement, there are set
points that must be changed and clear propositions are made by them as
recommendations for revisions.5
Unifor promise of change doesn’t come without a clear plan. “Unifor says it
will spend $50 million over five years to organize more workers into unions.
That’s an amazing commitment. Combined with a public campaign to promote
high-paying jobs and an appropriate industrial strategy, such a drive could
have a real impact” (Dobbin, 2013, p. 25). Not only in favour
of NAFTA renegotiations, but in favour of all socio-economic improvements
Unifor is an active participant. Via campaigns, coalitions, people’s trade or
Good Jobs, Unifor acts for more positively impacted communities.

On October 19th 2017, Unifor organized
rallies across Canada in order to perpetuate the progressive agenda and for
negotiators to stick to these said progressive ideals. Other actions include
the open letter sent to the Trade Representative of the United States, Robert
Lighthizer, discussing labour standards6,
the positioning statement on NAFTA discussed previously with clear
recommendations for revisions, or the Panel discussion of November 17th,
2017 in which Unifor advised that they have joined with Mexican workers for
increased standards of living and eradication of workers’ exploitation in
Mexico7

Briefs,
Articles, Research, Media Releases from Unifor

§  Unifor’s
website section specialized on NAFTA.8

§  Unifor
for a Better NAFTA: Fixing NAFTA9

§  Auto
industry and NAFTA10

§  November
27th 2017, No NAFTA without Mexican labour reform: Unifor.11

§  November
21st 2017, Canada Needs A Progressive Trade Agenda That’s More Than
Just Words.12

§  October
20th 2017, Unifor and U.S. Commerce Secretary agree on key NAFTA
strategy.13

Conclusion

As the renegotiations of NAFTA are ongoing, Unifor
really defines their presence in the process. They are active supports of workers’
conditions and positive socio-economic progress. As the main representative of
the most important sectors of Canadian economy that are affected by the NAFTA,
they are aware of the possible impact to these industries. They work for
continuous improvement and provide clear recommendations for change. From its
inception, the goal of Unifor remains around the possibility to enhance workers’
conditions ranging from salary equity, job security and safety, EI, etc. Since
1994, NAFTA impact has been quite ambiguous. The trade deal was mainly based on
regulations that benefits corporations and businesses than the workforce.
Unifor as well drafted specific revisions point for the renegotiations and with
their presence during these negotiations they hold a powerful impact on
discussion, additionally to being the representative of members across Canada.
Nothing can yet be defined of the future impact of NAFTA 2.0, it was clearly
reviewed that its inception in 1994 requires revision, which Trump initiated in
2017. Unifor remains an important actor for the major sector of Canadian
economy during NAFTA renegotiations. The future impacts are yet to be
determined. 

 

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-unifor

2 Proportion of Unifor members across Canada, https://www.unifor.org/en/member-services/sectors

3 Existing role in Unifor structure, how inclusive they are of
minorities, https://www.unifor.org/en/about-unifor/meet-leadership

4 Position Statement issued to Canadian Government, http://www.unifor.org/sites/default/files/attachments/uniforstatement_nafta_final_formatted2.pdf

5 Ibis.

6 Open letter addressed to express the importance of labour standards
in renegotiations http://www.unifor.org/sites/default/files/attachments/robert_lighthizer.pdf

7 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-resume

8 http://www.unifor.org/en/nafta

9 http://www.unifor.org/sites/default/files/documents/document/unifor_nafta_leave_eng-f.pdf

10 http://www.unifor.org/sites/default/files/documents/document/2017-02-update_on_auto_and_nafta-en.pdf

11 http://www.unifor.org/en/whats-new/press-room/no-nafta-without-mexican-labour-reform-unifor

12 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