Bad deal for Canadian workers, great for foreign corporate giants − labour group slams TPP

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, whose full text was made available to the public yesterday after years of secret negotiations, includes provisions to harmonize Canadian labour laws with those of countries with inferior labour standards, reduce the ability of our government to purchase Canadian-made products, undermine Canada Post, and increase corporate access to exploitable labour, according to the Alberta Federation of Labour.

“The ‘harmonization’ that this deal promises won’t improve labour laws anywhere. Whenever labour laws are ‘harmonized,’ it’s always part of a race to the bottom,” AFL president Gil McGowan said. “Canadian labour laws should not be based on those of TPP signatories like Vietnam.”

The section of the deal on Canada Temporary Entry for Business Persons confirms fears that the deal allows foreign companies to bring in an unlimited number of temporary foreign workers in certain broad occupational categories without work permits, bypassing all certification requirements and rules to protect Canadian jobs, according the AFL.

The group warned that this will continue to distort the local labour market and to displace Canadians and to drive down wages.

“We’ve already seen that labour mobility provisions in other trade agreements have allowed corporations to bypass Canadian workers and to undermine wages in Alberta,” McGowan said. “The TPP just means that employers will be able to bring in more exploitable workers with fewer rights from more countries.”

The deal requires that all foreign companies be treated exactly the same as Canadian ones, even if those companies are run unethically in jurisdictions with lower environmental and humanitarian standards, the AFL added.

The deal additionally reduces the ability of Investment Canada to regulate foreign investment in Canada by increasing thresholds for review up to $1 billion, including takeovers, the group warned.

“It’s a bad deal for workers,” McGowan said. “This deal is a tool to cede power to multinational corporate giants that have no interest in the well-being of Canadians or the Canadian economy.”

AFL warned that companies will be able to sue member governments for any regulation they provision which might impact their profits, while the section of the deal on labour rights contains virtually no meaningful guarantees on minimum labour or employment laws besides that they must exist.

“Don’t be fooled by the noble, aspirational, fuzzy language about protecting workers rights – none of that is binding. Those parts are largely meaningless when you look at them,” McGowan said. “When this deal talks about corporate rights, the language is firm, solid, binding and punitive. ‘Signatories shall abide by investor and corporate rights or there will be consequences.’ But in all the sections about the rights of individuals or of citizens, the language is muddled, vague and weak … like ‘Signatories commit to acknowledge the existence of goals surrounding the possibility of workers’ rights.’”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new Liberal government promised today to hold a “full public debate” before ratifying the deal negotiated and agreed in principle by former PM Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

“I look forward to engaging with Canadians on the TPP agreement,” International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said. “As well, our government is committed to holding a full and open debate in Parliament to ensure Canadians are consulted on this historic trade agreement.”