Steelworkers and Auto Workers, Together at Last

The heads of Canada’s largest industrial unions just presented the following appeal to use government procurement policy to maintain and create Canadian jobs.

UPDATE: It seems that Peggy Nash (from CAW) and I (from USW) will be taking calls about Buy America and Buy Canadian policies on CP24, a Toronto news TV station, between 9pm and 10pm on Wednesday.

UPDATE (Feb. 11): Nick Rowe, yours truly and other folks have been debating this proposal on his blog.

CAW/USW Joint Statement on a Buy Canadian policy

Canadian workers are facing unprecedented economic challenges as the global financial crisis deepens. Hundreds of thousands of workers have already been thrown out of a job in recent years, including nearly half a million manufacturing workers. And there are more job losses on the horizon as Canada’s industrial base continues to weaken.

On behalf of members of the United Steelworkers and Canadian Auto Workers unions, representing half a million workers across the country, we believe that the federal government must do everything in its power to protect the economic and social well being of Canadian citizens and their communities. This is a fundamental responsibility of government; both in times of economic prosperity, and economic crisis.

The Harper government showed its true colours when it tabled an economic update in 2008 that entirely ignored Canada’s economic troubles. Only on threat of defeat did the Conservative government show a willingness to provide some assistance to the Canadian people – assistance that still fails to address the size and scope of the economic problems we face. This half-hearted and opportunistic approach to governance is unacceptable; Canadians can, and must, demand more from their elected leaders.

Over and above budgetary spending, the federal government has a variety of policy tools at its disposal to steer Canadian workers, their families and communities through this economic storm. One such tool is to establish a Buy-Canadian procurement policy to ensure that the majority of public funds are spent on goods and services made in Canada. This would allow Canadians to receive the lion’s share of economic benefits from government spending, helping to create and protect jobs and spur economic development. And, critically, such a move would put us on a level playing field with our major trading partners.

As our governments are poised to spend billions on rebuilding much-needed infrastructure, we believe that Buy-Canadian policies are long overdue and necessary to ensure that Canadians receive maximum benefit from public purchases, including the $12 billion infrastructure stimulus funding outlined in the recent budget.

But rather than prove to Canadians that his government can rise above partisanship to establish smart policies during a time of crisis, Stephen Harper remains blinded by his failing free-trade and deregulation ideology, and has dismissed the use of Buy-Canadian policies outright. And in an effort to quash public debate on this issue, his government has consistently threatened that a domestic purchasing policy would breach international trade rules and would be condemned by our international trading partners – possibly sparking an international trade war. We do not accept this position.

We were deeply disappointed to hear government officials publicly criticize the inclusion of a buy-domestic provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The criticism levied by the Harper government exaggerated the impact that such provisions would have on Canada’s economy. It ignored the fact that Buy American rules for federal purchases have existed since 1933 and that Buy America rules for state and local transport infrastructure have existed since 1982 – long before the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In fact, buy-domestic policies are in place in many developed and developing countries around the world and clearly accepted within the terms of international trade agreements, including the NAFTA and WTO. Japan, South Korea, Mexico, China, and most member states of the European Union have domestic purchasing policies. Adopting similar Buy-Canadian policies would simply level the playing field.

Government must act responsibly and do all that is necessary and in their power to protect working families and communities in these difficult times. The evidence is clear that not only is a Buy-Canadian policy for public purchases a viable option to help kick- start Canada’s industrial sector, it will also have spillover benefits for the broader Canadian economy.

In the midst of this crisis Canadians are looking for leadership and demanding immediate action from Ottawa, not political gamesmanship. The time to act is now.

Ken Neumann

National Director, USW

Ken Lewenza

National President, CAW

Déclaration conjointe des TCA et du Syndicat des Métallos sur la politique d’achat au Canada

Face à la crise mondiale qui s’intensifie, les travailleuses et travailleurs canadiens doivent relever des défis économiques sans précédent. Des centaines de milliers d’entre eux ont déjà perdu leur emploi au cours des dernières années, y compris près d’un demi-million dans le secteur manufacturier. De plus, d’autres pertes d’emplois s’annoncent à l’horizon avec l’affaiblissement continu de la base industrielle du Canada.

Au nom des membres du Syndicat des Métallos et du Syndicat national de l’automobile, de l’aérospatiale, du transport et des autres travailleurs et travailleuses du Canada, qui représentent un demi-million de travailleuses et travailleurs à l’échelle du pays, nous croyons que le gouvernement fédéral doit faire tout en son pouvoir pour protéger le bien?être économique et social des citoyens canadiens et de leurs communautés. Il s’agit là d’une responsabilité fondamentale du gouvernement, tant en période de prospérité économique qu’en temps de crise économique.

Le gouvernement Harper s’est réellement montré sous son vrai jour lorsqu’il a déposé une mise à jour relative à la situation économique en 2008 qui ne tenait aucunement compte des difficultés économiques auxquelles le Canada est confronté. Ce n’est qu’à la suite d’une menace de défaite que le gouvernement conservateur s’est dit prêt à offrir de l’aide à la population canadienne – aide qui ne répond toujours pas à l’ampleur et à l’étendue des difficultés économiques que nous éprouvons. Cette façon hésitante et opportuniste de gouverner est inacceptable; les Canadiennes et les Canadiens peuvent, et doivent, exiger davantage des dirigeants qu’ils ont élus.

En plus des dépenses budgétaires, le gouvernement fédéral dispose d’un grand nombre d’outils d’orientation pour aider les travailleurs canadiens, leurs familles et les communautés à traverser ces temps économiques difficiles. Un de ces outils consiste à établir une politique d’achat au Canada afin de s’assurer que la majorité des deniers publics servent à acheter des biens et services produits au Canada. Une telle politique permettrait aux Canadiens de bénéficier de la part du lion des avantages économiques des dépenses du gouvernement, tout en aidant à créer des emplois, à protéger les emplois et à stimuler le développement économique. De plus, ce qui est d’une importance capitale, une telle initiative uniformiserait les règles du jeu pour nous-mêmes et nos principaux partenaires commerciaux.

Maintenant que nos gouvernements sont prêts à dépenser des milliards à la reconstruction de l’infrastructure indispensable, nous croyons qu’une politique d’achat au Canada se fait attendre depuis très longtemps et qu’elle est nécessaire pour veiller à ce que les Canadiens profitent au maximum des achats publics, y compris des 12 milliards de dollars en financement visant à rebâtir l’infrastructure dont le récent budget faisait état.

Cependant, plutôt que de montrer à la population canadienne que son gouvernement peut mettre de côté le sectarisme politique pour établir des politiques intelligentes en période de crise, Stephen Harper est toujours incapable de déroger à son idéologie défaillante en matière de libre-échange et de déréglementation, et il a carrément rejeté le recours à des politiques d’achat au Canada. De plus, en vue d’étouffer le débat public sur cette question, son gouvernement a continuellement prétendu qu’une politique d’achat national irait à l’encontre des règles commerciales internationales et serait jugée inacceptable par nos partenaires commerciaux internationaux – et qu’elle pourrait même déclencher une guerre commerciale internationale. Nous n’acceptons pas cette position.

Nous avons été profondément déçus d’entendre les responsables gouvernementaux publiquement critiquer l’inclusion d’une disposition d’achat national dans l’American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (loi sur le plan de relance américain et l’investissement). La critique qu’a avancée le gouvernement Harper exagérait l’effet que de telles dispositions auraient sur l’économie canadienne. Sa critique ne tenait pas compte du fait que les règles d’approvisionnement qui régissent les achats fédéraux aux États-Unis existent depuis 1933, et que les règles américaines d’approvisionnement pour les États et l’infrastructure du transport local existent depuis 1982 – bien avant que l’American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ne soit adoptée.

À vrai dire, de nombreux pays développés et en voie de développement partout dans le monde ont instauré des politiques d’achat national qui sont clairement acceptées dans les accords commerciaux internationaux, y compris l’ALENA, et par l’OMC. Le Japon, la Corée du Sud, le Mexique, la Chine et la plupart des États de l’Union européenne possèdent de telles politiques. L’adoption de politiques d’achat national semblables au Canada uniformiserait tout simplement les règles du jeu.

Le gouvernement doit agir de façon responsable et faire tout ce qui s’impose et tout en son pouvoir pour protéger les familles ouvrières et les communautés pendant cette période de conjoncture économique difficile. Les preuves démontrent clairement qu’une politique d’achat au Canada régissant les achats publics constitue non seulement une option viable pour relancer le secteur industriel au Canada, mais qu’elle aura également des avantages subsidiaires pour l’économie canadienne dans son ensemble.

Au cœur même de cette crise, les Canadiennes et les Canadiens ont besoin d’orientation et ils exigent qu’Ottawa prenne des mesures immédiates, plutôt que de recourir à des astuces politiques. Il faut agir maintenant.

Le directeur national, Syndicat des Métallos,

Ken Neumann

Le président national, TCA

Ken Lewenza

12 comments

  • And I suppose Stockwell Day will take credit for this as well!

    Good job, constructive harmonics will make the songs for change a lot louder.

    I hope for the sake of public optics, Harper starts shaving the back of his neck.

    Pt

  • Don’t tease us with headlines like that. I thought you were announcing a merger of the two unions.

  • If that happens, I may use the same headline but will categorize the post under “mergers” rather than under “public sector procurement”. 🙂

  • The enemy of my enemy is my friend (and they finally figured it out).

  • thanks for the joint work.

    I’ve read over most of the comments on the other blog (WCI) and what strikes me is that people don’t seem to realize that, for many years already, we are well past anything that could even be remotely construed as ‘free’ trade.

    This becomes most apparent at the local level, where years of ‘necessity tests’ have resulted in municipal and provincial regulation that favours big transnationals over domestic suppliers.

    There are rules for procuring ‘capacity’, so-called ‘best practices’, and a whole litany of hoop-jumping exercises that require expensive lawyers to navigate.

    It’s very refreshing to see some articulation of a ‘Buy Canadian’ perspective, to start to push back some of the nonsensical rhetoric around ‘free’ trade. It never was ‘free’. It was and continues to be rigged in favour of the big financiers and their lackeys who’ve been writing the regs and spewing them out through the NAFTA working groups, CD Howe, the Fraser Institute, the IFIs, and through the academic community.

    The same old players who are still trying to call the shots, reprobates all.

    And while i’m ranting, having read the items on the financial crisis, and links to the various US commentators, while I’m glad they’re finally talking of how to firewall off the ‘bad’ without further poisoning the ‘good’, it seems even more apparent that a lot of the financial players actually belong in prison.

    They certainly shouldn’t be given one cent more of public money, nor any further opportunity to develop policy.

  • The process of auditing the banks’ books should be done by a separate public institution, and if the bank is found to be insolvent then it should face the necessary consequences, and the public institution establish a new clean structure which protects depositors.

    Already the Globe is postulating a ridiculous scenario wherein commercial banking is simply separated from hedge and private equity and investment banking, which are allowed to continue with Less Regulation.

    Do these reporters have any sense whatsoever?

  • Union leaders, as well as Corporations and politicians are remodelling the meaning of words. It is a Lawyer’s world since Clinton’s definition of Sex and Use of Marijuana.
    Now “Workers” apply only to those who members of high pay, unskilled, heavily subsidized Unions.
    So, the formula of Buy National is aimed to Government spending. “Buy National” it is a phrase for buy products made by Union’s industries. Make no difference that no consumer wants it, because it is artificially priced and low in quality. Of course, keep subsidizing the cycle of Buy National by Government, so taxpayers being milked to sustain a Union’s way of life.

  • and today the Globe has a story on a new Con/Bush style civilian e-wiretapping proposal.

    how terribly handy for Manulife, and other FIRE(finance/insurance/real estate) magnates who might otherwise do very badly with all their nefarious ‘assets’ imploding.

    How much better would it be for independent public audits to review the books of all these institutions, and deal with Them according to law, while protecting pensioners, employees and ordinary civilians.

    The excuse for civilian wire-tapping to catch internet terrorists and pedophiles can be accomplished much more simply and quickly by charging and shutting down the sites where this illegal activity goes on.

    But no, so-called ‘Conservatives’ would prefer that predatory behaviour continues, while also allowing the big corporate predators to continue screwing the public.

    Sick. Completely.

    The sooner an election, the better.

  • Alfredo, if you haven’t noticed, ‘consumers’ aka the general public has been crying out for good public infrastructure, including serious and extensive public transit and serious and extensive public clean power, which can be built with serious and extensive made-in-this-country parts with hundreds of thousands of well-paying with-benefits unionized jobs that might just keep the financiers and corporations from destroying absolutely everything in this country while providing decent employment for residents.

    What planet are you from?

  • And the best way to help other countries who are also getting screwed by the same casino is to do a full independent public audit of all the casino/s operations, here and elsewhere, under the auspices of the G-192, not the G-20 nor the G-1+.

    Bad behaviour is stopped and new people set up clean structures, clean economic and ecological structures.

    This is strictly a matter of will. The longer people delay doing the clean-up, the longer the finance sector and it’s apologists resist, the worse it will be for everyone. Financier reputations have been ruined already. They could at least try to make amends by getting the heck out of the way and letting the rest of the world do what’s necessary now.

  • Alfredo’s Answer: “A crying out for good public infrastructure,”, little bid dramatic but ineffectual as a point. What is the definition of “Good” when it comes to Government: Aka= Waste, Inefficiency, Unions and an eternal increase of taxation
    Evidently an elite movement: “serious and extensive public transit and serious and extensive public clean power, which can be built with serious and extensive made-in-this-country parts with hundreds of thousands of well-paying with-benefits unionized jobs”; remember that only between 12 to 17% of the workforce is represented by Unions and only in those jobs with low skills and highly Government subsidies as Steel and car and other industries. The world has change and jobs nature had changed.
    Unfortunate, risk taking financiers are the ones that create wealth when risking their own money.

  • Alfredo, have you heard of the country’s problems with limited or non-existent public transit? With limited or non-existent public windfarms, clean generation or grids? With limited rural public water and sewage infrastructure, particularly in First Nations communities?

    Seems like the biggest waste and inefficiency lately has come from the disappearance of some 3.5 trillion dollars by the private elitist ‘highly skilled’ force that continues to be extremely efficient in disappearing the taxpayers’ money into the bailout bottomless pit. On top of the money they’ve stolen already by turning their workers into serfs.

    and yes, lets not forget all those casual part-time jobs at timmies and walmart.

    love your vision, Alfredo.

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