A Unifor hosted roundtable brought Mexican labour leaders together with Canada’s Chief NAFTA negotiator Steve Verheul to share their experiences and concerns on the renegotiation of the trade agreement.
“This was an amazing opportunity to have a candid and informative discussion about the negative impact that the current NAFTA has had on the lives of Mexican workers and to talk about the need for improved labour standards in any new deal,” said National President Jerry Dias.
Dias was joined at the “NAFTA: A Worker’s View” roundtable by Atlantic Regional Director Lana Payne, and Western Regina Director Joie Warnock, along with Quebec Director Renaud Gagné.
Mexican delegates spoke about how NAFTA has led to low wage precarious jobs, child labour, reduced purchasing power and a lack of independent unions.
“We were promised we would be first world with Canada and the U.S. and the complete opposite has happened,” said Héctor de La Cueva Díaz of Mexico’s Labor Research and Trade Union Advisory Center. “Union freedom is non-existent.  We are not asking for handouts, we are asking for freedom of association so we can then negotiate our own collective agreements.”
The Mexican workers commended Verheul and the Canadian negotiating team for tabling progressive labour chapter proposals and thanked Unifor for continuing to fight to raise standards for workers in all three NAFTA nations.
“We know that you are fighting to improve labour conditions,” said María del Carmen Llamas Montes, representing Mexico’s Telephonists Union. “We don’t have a chance to be heard in our own country. We will keep fighting; we will keep working against all odds so our voices are heard.”
Leading Canadian civil society activists also contributed ideas on how international trade agreements can be used to improve living conditions and raise environmental standards.
The roundtable was part of Unifor’s NAFTA lobby week in Ottawa, where a joint delegation of Canadian and Mexican labour leaders met with Members of Parliament, representatives of the Standing Committee on International Trade and members of Canada’s NAFTA Labour negotiating team.
“This is a critical time for the voices of workers to be heard on the true impact of NAFTA in both nations,” said Dias. “There is real danger that the sudden push by the U.S. for a rush deal could lead to a further deterioration of standards for workers.”
View a photo gallery of the NAFTA: A Worker’s View roundtable at Facebook.com/UniforCanada