Unions seek improvements to NAFTA auto provisions

Unifor president Jerry Dias says the unions "will not allow trade to pit worker against worker."

TORONTO — Unifor and the United Auto Workers have joined forces to voice their concerns about the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and say any new provisions must protect auto workers in all three member countries.

“This joint statement is an important message for governments in Canada and the US 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 says that workers cannot allow themselves to be divided while corporations reap the benefits of such division.

It continues to note that “no amount of spin can erase the fact that NAFTA cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and the closure of thousands of US and Canadian manufacturing facilities.”

NAFTA renegotiations, the unions say, 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 US and Canada.

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Priority improvements 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.

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