Skip to content

GM to layoff 625 autoworkers in Ontario, Unifor calls for NAFTA to be renegotiated

The Council of Canadians expresses its solidarity with the autoworkers at the CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario who were notified by General Motors yesterday that their jobs would be gone by July.

Following US President Donald Trump’s threat to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), General Motors has now announced that those 625 assembly plant jobs will be relocated to Mexico.

The Toronto Star reports, “Unifor national president Jerry Dias said the decision demonstrates how NAFTA has favoured the lower-cost Mexican jurisdiction at the expense of autoworkers in the U.S. and Canada. Dias said spinoff losses among parts suppliers and other businesses will take the toll of unemployed into the thousands.”

Dias has tweeted, “News to lay off more than 600 workers at CAMI-GM is a betrayal & shows why NAFTA is a terrible deal.”

Dias has also commented, “This decision reeks of corporate greed. It is not based on sales, it is an another example of how good jobs are being shifted out of Canada for cheaper labour in Mexico, and Unifor will not let it happen without a fight. …The announcement is a shining example of everything wrong with NAFTA. It must be renegotiated. It is imperative that we have trade rules that help ensure good jobs in Canada.”

Earlier this month, Dias and Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow highlighted the risks of NAFTA in this Toronto Star op-ed.

They wrote, “NAFTA captures the worst features of corporate-led, profit-driven globalization — providing transnational businesses unconditional access to markets with no requirement to invest where they sell and the right to scour a continent in search of the cheapest labour, weakest regulations and biggest tax breaks. With its remarkably poor, and unenforceable, labour provisions, NAFTA hangs like a spectre over the heads of industrial workers, the persistent threat of job loss used to justify cuts to wages and benefits.”

Dias and Barlow also noted, “Trade across North American borders is a good thing. For Canada’s economy, it’s essential. There’s a mistaken assumption, however, that NAFTA is a prerequisite to trade. It’s not. It’s a set of rules designed to ensure the benefits of trade are enjoyed mainly by global investment bankers, multinational corporations and the privileged class. Job creation is an added (albeit secondary) benefit, but not the likely outcome. NAFTA is not a fair deal. It was never meant to be.”

And they recommended, “All nations can commit to manage the size of existing trade imbalances, particularly in strategic sectors such as auto. Canada’s auto trade deficit with Mexico hit $25 billion last year, up more than 700 per cent since NAFTA was signed. Putting limits on such imbalances can help nations better manage trade flows, protect jobs and stave off investment drain. Further, negotiators should explore a North American Auto Pact — a policy instrument (like its predecessor between Canada and the U.S.) to ensure each country receives a proportional share of auto investment and jobs.”

Unifor has also highlighted in a recent report that the average Mexican worker is not benefiting from NAFTA either.

The union notes, “Real industrial wages in Mexico are no higher (after inflation) than they were when NAFTA was signed – despite the incredible expansion of output, quality, and productivity since then. Mass displacement of agricultural populations (another legacy of NAFTA) has pushed millions of desperate Mexicans off the land and into urban labour markets. Most insidiously, there is a demonstrated and sustained pattern of democratic and labour suppression in Mexico that prevents Mexicans from winning a fairer share of the growing pie they produce.”

The Council of Canadians calls on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to raise these issues when he meets with Trump in Washington in late-February.

Further reading
A North American Auto Pact would benefit all workers (January 3, 2017)