President Haggerty talks USMCA and more with Trudeau and labour leaders
This morning, UFCW Local 175 President Shawn Haggerty spoke directly with Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister of Employment, Workforce Development, and Labour, Patty Hadju, in a discussion with other labour and government leaders on the role of labour as a partner in the Government of Canada’s efforts in growing the middle class.
Given the announcement early this week about the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), President Haggerty took the opportunity to raise a number of concerns with the Prime Minister.
“I know our Members are concerned about the impact this new deal will have on our dairy and poultry sectors, and how it will weaken Canada’s food system,” said Haggerty. “Prime Minister Trudeau owes an explanation to families across Canada about how this deal will affect their livelihoods.”
Canada’s Dairy System
The USMCA expands Canada’s dairy market by about 3.6%. According to the Dairy Farmers of Canada, when combined with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) with Europe, plus World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments, it means that 18% of Canada’s dairy market is open to tariff-free foreign imports. That industry, from farming to processing, supports more than 220,000 families across Canada. The new deal also somewhat limits Canada’s ability to export its products as well.
The U.S. has systemic issues with over production in its heavily subsidized dairy industry. Canada’s supply management system, which matches supply to demand, attempts to avoid overproduction and reduces the impact of severe fluctuations in the market. But now, the USMCA allows the U.S. to dump some of that excess into the Canadian market. Canadian farmers can’t afford to compete.
The Poultry Industry
Access to Canada’s poultry industry also increased under USMCA to more than double what the U.S. had negotiated under the TPP before the U.S. pulled out of that agreement. Local 175 has almost 3,500 working the poultry processing sector in Ontario. Concessions made in the new deal, combined with the CETA and TPP, means that 12% of our poultry production is now in the hands of foreign suppliers.
While the government has said it will help compensate dairy farmers affected by this deal, maintaining the Canadian food supply system is in the best interests of working people throughout the affected industries and all Canadians. This agreement sets a bad precedent for Canada’s supply management system and the jobs and quality products protected by it.
“It’s difficult to say what this will mean for quotas and production going forward across our agricultural sectors. I wanted to ensure that with this opportunity, I spoke directly to the Prime Minister to express the skepticism and concerns of working Canadians are brought forward and made clear,” said Haggerty.
“I encourage our members and the Canadian public to make sure they see a ‘Dairy Farmers of Canada’ or ‘made with Canadian milk’ label on the dairy products they purchase. Similarly, look for Canadian poultry products as well.”
The USMCA deal still needs to be ratified by each of the participating countries before it becomes effective.
President Haggerty also brought up several other concerns.
Federal Labour Law
To the Hon. Patty Hadju, President Haggerty directed comments regarding federal labour law, under which some members of Local 175 work. As a Union, it has been our experience that there is a lack of knowledge among arbitrators hearing cases in Ontario about federal labour laws. So, in order to provide fair and just arbitrations, it’s important that those arbitrators be familiar with federal labour code.
In addition, President Haggerty urged that the severance and notice provisions for workers under federal jurisdiction need to be improved drastically.
Automation & Technology
As robotics and automation continue to invade our workspaces, President Haggerty urged that the government must do more to prepare and provide for the working people displaced. “You used to be able to walk into a grocery store and see a cashier at every till,” said Haggerty. “Now you a few cashiers if you’re lucky, and multiple self-checkouts monitored by one person. And, in some places, only self-checkouts.”
We’ve seen meat cutting robots introduced to the Meat Cutter industry, which affects skilled craft trades members of Local 633. Not only is technology replacing retail and commercial workers, but robots have even been introduced in the health care field as trials for patient care too.
“How is our country preparing our workforce and economy for these changes,” asked Haggerty? “We need our government to work with labour and unions to find solutions to these pressing concerns.”
The ‘Notwithstanding’ Clause
Lastly, President Haggerty expressed significant concern over Doug Ford’s recent use of Section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, known as the notwithstanding clause. Ford’s promise to invoke the clause trampled on the rights of the voters in Toronto and their right to free speech. Misuse of the clause sets a dangerous precedent. President Haggerty proposed that the Federal government step in and intervene should the Premier being eroding the rights of people and workers in the province.
Today’s meeting took place in Windsor and came at the request of the Minister of Labour and included a number of Union representatives. Along with President Haggerty, Region 5 Director Angela Mattioli and Executive Assistant Jim McLean also attended.
Other Labour Movement representatives included the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793, Windsor Professional Firefighters Association Local 455, Unifor Locals 200, 444, & 2458, Sheet Metal Workers Local 235 and the Essex-Kent Building Trades Council, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 616, CUPE Local 543, Windsor & District Labour Council, and International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local 6.