Toronto, ON — The auto industry is essential to Canada and the United States, and any renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement must help workers in all three countries, a joint statement by Unifor and the United Autoworkers says.
“This joint statement is an important message for governments in Canada and the United States to hear. We will not allow trade to pit worker against worker,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias said. “Auto workers are standing together across borders to ensure any renegotiated NAFTA delivers gains for all.”
The statement, entitled Fair Trade and Shared Prosperity: UAW-Unifor Statement on Auto and the Re-negotiation of NAFTA, says that workers cannot allow themselves to be divided while corporations reap the benefits of such division. No amount of spin can erase the fact that NAFTA cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and the closure of thousands of U.S and Canadian manufacturing facilities. NAFTA renegotiations will only be successful if it leads to higher wages in all three countries, reverse crippling trade deficits with Mexico, and create new manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and Canada,” the statement says. The full version is available as a download here: unifor.org/NAFTAUNIFORUAW
Priority improvements affecting the auto industry include the urgent need to raise wages and labour standards in Mexico; ensuring that autos and auto parts granted tariff-free access are actually made in North America and meet high enough content rules; structuring the agreement to achieve greater trade balance, and to ensure that workers in each country get a fair share of the benefits of the industry.
“The time has come to make major changes to NAFTA. Little tweaks, or a do-nothing approach, won’t cut it,” UAW President Dennis Williams said.
The auto industry accounts for two million jobs directly in North America, including 245,000 workers who are members of Unifor and the UAW. The industry is the backbone of hundreds of communities, and supports jobs at local businesses and public services. While calling for improvements for workers in all three countries, Unifor and the UAW said that participation in drafting the statement from Mexican workers was not possible because there are essentially no independent unions representing auto workers in that country, “and that is a core part of the problem.”
“The re-negotiation of NAFTA affords new opportunities for international solidarity and making real progress for all workers. We will continue to engage governments, civil society partners and allies to ensure that trade policy is geared toward mutual gains, the expansion of rights and sustainable economic development,” the statement says.