Canadian and Colombian labour jointly reject trade talks

Canadian Labour Congress and Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia

Canadian and Colombian Labour Jointly Reject Trade Talks

16 July 2007

OTTAWA — In a joint statement, the largest labour federations in Canada and Colombia reject the announced trade negotiations between Canada, Colombia and Peru as “an extreme free-market trade and investment model which guarantees the rights of investors over the human, social, economic, cultural and labour rights of its citizens.”

In Colombia, more union leaders and activists are assassinated in Colombia than in all of the Americas - 2,245 between 1991 and 2006. Moreover, some 8,000 suffered threats, arbitrary detention, kidnapping, torture and disappearances.

The joint statement released by the Canadian Labour Congress and the “Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia” (the CUT) declares that no trade negotiations with Colombia should be initiated before the Colombian government:

- completely severs all ties with paramilitary organizations and international criminal networks;
- Provides meaningful and adequate protection for unions and trade unionists;
- makes significant advances in the investigation and prosecution of crimes against trade unionists;
- brings its labour laws into conformity with the International Labour Organization (ILO) core labour standards; and
- provides full support for the newly created ILO office in Colombia to monitor labour rights compliance and pursue the investigation of key cases of assassinations of trade unionists.

Moreover, the Canadian Labour Congress and the CUT demand that any future “negotiations between Canada and Colombia towards a future trading agreement be preceded by labour, as well as environmental assessments which would evaluate the likely economic and social impacts the deal would have on both countries’ labour markets, capital mobility, wages, employment stability and working conditions.”

Please find the full text of the statement below.

The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.2 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada’s national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 135 district labour councils. Web site: www.canadianlabour.ca

Contact: Jean Wolff, 613-526-7431 and 613-878-6040

Joint Statement on Trade Agreement

July 16, 2007

Today, July 16, the first round of Canadian free trade negotiations with Peru and Colombia takes place in Lima. The Colombian government is seeking preferential access to the Canadian market which imports 4.5% of worldwide imports and has the fifth largest trade volume in the world. In light of this free trade agreement, the CUT and the Canadian Labour Congress, jointly issue the following statement:

The Canadian Labour Congress and the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia (CUT), based on our experience with so-called free trade and investment agreements such as the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and now the US-Col Free Trade Agreement, jointly declare our rejection of, and concerns with this type of extreme free-market trade and investment model which guarantees the rights of investors over the human, social, Economic, cultural and labour rights of its citizens.

These agreements are conceived to be subscribed to by nations with comparable levels of development, but as such, disregard the existing differences between economies like those of the United States and Canada, whose development represents more than a hundred times that of countries like Colombia, resulting in the destruction of local productive capacity.

Attaching non-binding side agreements or levying of insignificant fines for labour rights’ violations are not effective mechanisms for improvements in the active implementation and respect for core labour standards, especially the right to freedom of association and to collective bargaining, or for job creation.

International commercial agreements must not reduce the power of governments to legislate for the public good, provide social security, public health care and education for all citizens, imposing themselves above the constitutional law which guarantees the rights of the population.

No commercial agreements should be undertaken between Canada and Colombia before the Colombian government completely severs all ties with paramilitary organizations and international criminal networks; makes significant advances in the investigation and prosecution of crimes against trade unionists provides meaningful and adequate protection for unions and trade unionists; brings its labour laws into conformity with ILO core labour standards; and provides full support for the newly created ILO office in Colombia to monitor labour rights compliance and pursue the investigation of key cases of assassinations of trade unionists.

As the most legitimate representatives of workers in both our countries, we demand that any negotiations between Canada and Colombia towards a future trading agreement be preceded by labour, as well as environmental
assessments which would evaluate the likely economic and social impacts the deal would have on both country’s labour markets, capital mobility, wages, employment stability and working conditions.

In the case of Colombia, this assessment would need to document the fulfilment of its human and labour rights, as well as environmental obligations under international treaties.

As stated in Labour’s Platform for the Americas, adopted by worker organisations throughout the Hemisphere, any acceptable international trade agreement must have as its central goal, the creation of decent jobs and sustainable development and provide for the protection of core labour standards in all nations taking part in such agreements.

The Canadian Labour Congress and the CUT will begin to undertake joint activities so that these considerations can be taken into account.

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