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Workers in Canada and Mexico demanded that Mexico increase its labor standards to negotiate NAFTA on an equal footing for its workers

North American workers mobilize for a NAFTA agreement taking their needs into account

03.10.2017

Canadian union Unifor is continuing its efforts to ensure that Mexico improves labour standards and that, together with Canada and the United States, it manages to negotiate a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) ensuring equal conditions for workers.

Unifor and a range of trade unions and social organizations held a rally to express their solidarity with Mexican workers in defence of their rights under NAFTA and in sympathy with the consequences of the recent earthquake.

They were calling for a NAFTA that guarantees dignified working conditions, respect for workers' rights and the right to sustainable development for all the countries concerned. Although it had been hoped that representatives of Mexican trade unions would attend, the devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico on 19 September made this impossible.

When NAFTA was signed, they told us it would increase pay and lift Mexican workers out of poverty, but this did not happen. We want to show our support, at this difficult time, and help them to build a more prosperous future,

said Unifor’s national president, Jerry Dias, after a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the earthquake.

The UNT, the Nueva Central and other associated unions in Mexico issued a public statement expressing their gratitude for the solidarity given:

“Workers and trade unions in our three countries are united in the struggle to stop attempts to make work and life more precarious, to reduce the asymmetries between our countries, to recover the purchasing power of our wages and ensure that NAFTA does not go ahead unless it guarantees decent work, respects workers' rights throughout the region and recognizes the right to sustainable development for each nation.”

Unifor and US affiliate United Automobile Workers (UAW), issued a joint statement saying that renegotiation of the agreement must benefit the workers of the three signatory countries. They rejected the flexibilization of labour laws and imposition of lower wages in Mexico and in the south of the United States because they increase company profits on the backs of the workers.

They explained that the auto industry is directly responsible for two million jobs in North America and that the agreement led to the loss of  hundreds of thousands of jobs and the closure of thousands of factories in the United States and Canada. Therefore, the renegotiation of NAFTA will only be successful in the three countries if it leads to an increase in workers’ pay, especially in Mexico where, according to a recent study by the Mexican academic Alex Covarrubias, workers in the auto industry earn an average of US$ 2.3 per hour,. Moreover, the unions want the agreement to help close the trade deficit with Mexico and create new manufacturing jobs in unionized plants in the United States and Canada.

The third round of negotiations on NAFTA ended on 27 September in Ottawa, Canada. The fourth round will be held in Washington in October. Members of the trading bloc will try and reach an agreement by the end of the year, before the presidential election campaign in Mexico. However, negotiations are proceeding slowly with no visible progress.

Fernando Lopes, Director of IndustriALL Global Union, said:

Workers in Mexico, Canada and the United States are opposed to any agreement that does not take into consideration working conditions, freedom of association and the right to engage in collective bargaining. They believe it would be better to have no agreement rather than have a bad agreement. You can count on Industriall Global Union!