While much of the focus for MTD affiliates regarding trade agreements is focused within the United States, brothers and sisters north of the border are waging their own battle to save domestic jobs.
Driving that point home during the MTD Executive Board meeting in Atlanta was Jim Given, the department’s Eastern Area Executive Board Member and President of the SIU of Canada.
Upon hearing preliminary details affecting maritime within a trade pact between Canada and the European Union called the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), Given organized a meeting of unions – including the MTD – in Ottawa last September.
Based on leaked information obtained by Given, he informed those attending that CETA would go after maritime and infrastructure jobs currently held by Canadian citizens. The group created the Canadian Maritime and Supply Chain Coalition, naming Given the chair. Coalition affiliates represent 700,000 Canadian union members.
Speaking on February 19, he told the MTD that CETA would open Canadian dredging to foreign competition while preventing U.S. companies from bidding; would open the movement of empty containers within the Canadian border, which now is done by unionized Canadian shipping and rail; and would open the movement of container, bulk and liquid cargo between Montreal and Halifax, which is being handled by Canadian-flag and Canadian-crewed vessels. In particular, he pointed out a line on page 202 of the agreement: “All feeder service in Canada can be opened to foreign carriers.”
In addition, CETA would open ports, infrastructure and supply chain logistics to foreign competition.
“That is why the coalition is so important and will continue to be important,” Given stated. “The general public has no idea what is in CETA; neither do most politicians and neither do most municipal and provincial governments.”
Given and members of the coalition – which includes unions in Europe, Australia and the U.S. – have been meeting with government officials at all levels to fight the agreement. To raise awareness, the coalition has staged public demonstrations to call attention to the pact.
“Once our cabotage is open, it will destroy the Canadian flag and the industry,” Given told the board. He pointed out that CETA is a “one-way agreement” as most Canadian-flag ships are designed to sail on the Great Lakes so they would not be involved in European trade.
Given noted CETA caught the industry off guard.
“Maritime labor in Canada got lazy. That will never happen again! We’re going to make sure cabotage is protected in Canada! Not only protected, strengthened!” he declared to applause.
Thanks to the efforts of the Canadian Maritime and Supply Chain Coalition, Given said that nation’s citizens are starting to wake up. He said the coalition’s efforts are leading getting more people informed and involved before the national election scheduled for October.
“We’re going to come out of this stronger! We’re going to come out of this more united! And we’re going to come out of this with a clear focus on what we’re doing!”
Two people in particular have noticed the work being done by Given and the coalition.
In his introduction to the board, MTD President Michael Sacco called Given “the right man in the right place at the right time for this fight. He won’t stop until this battle is won for the workers.”
The next day during his remarks, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recognized and thanked Given for his efforts to call the public’s attention to a bad trade agreement for workers.