Tri-National Meeting of Energy Sector Workers
Major Energy Sector Workers Conclude Meetings in Mexico City
Mexico City / March 18, 2009 – Representatives from leading energy sector unions and civil society organizations from Mexico, the United States and Canada met in Mexico City for the third annual round of meetings. This network formed in 2007 to confront the secretive and undemocratic Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) being discussed in meetings of the leaders of the three countries.
Without a set date for next the SPP Summit, energy sector workers met this year to discuss and share challenges and strategies of workers and civil society with regard to the energy sector in the wake of the global economic crisis. The object of the meeting was to develop a common vision for energy security in North America, as well as coordination and an ongoing strategy for solidarity and support.
Mexican and Canadian delegates were critical of their governments’ responses to the economic crisis to date in protecting workers while delegates from the United States were optimistic about President Obama's stance. Recognizing the important opportunity to confront climate change, an emphasis was placed on union involvement in the development of a greener energy workforce and ensuring fairness for workers. Central to North America's energy future is a just transition strategy to protect workers and communities whose livelihoods are threatened or have been lost in the move away from more intensive forms of energy extraction and generation.
Members of the tri-national network also called for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, in particular the proportionality clause obligating one country to export renewable and non renewable resources to another country even in times of scarcity in the country of origin. This is of particular threat to Canada, which supplies close to 70% of the oil imported to the United States. Under NAFTA Canada is prohibited from reducing this supply.
The final declaration from the tri-national meetings states: “we will move toward union of the movements in each country in order to address the negative consequences of trade agreements and neoliberal globalization policies, and create more just and sustainable conditions for our countries.”
Delegates from Canada included: Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union National President Dave Coles and Vice President Joseph Gargiso; the Canadian Union of Public Employees, including Catherine Bert, representing the workers of Hydro Quebec, local 4250; the United Steelworkers Union; Common Frontiers; Reseau Quebecoise sur L'Intergration Continental RQIC; KAIROS Ecumenical Network; and the Council of Canadians.
of Energy Workers Of North America
Mexico City, March 16 – 18, 2009
At its Third Tri-National Meeting, unions, networks and social movement organizations from the energy sector of Canada, the US and Mexico committed to seeking solutions to the major challenges facing the sector in their respective countries and in the region overall.
The three countries are facing serious problems in their attempt to confront the current global economic crisis affecting North America as well as the other countries of the world: the crisis of the banking system, unemployment, the criminalization of social protest, the destruction of productive forces, deterioration of the environment, the irrational exploitation of energy resources, privatization and the dismantling of social programs and services.
The response of the governments of the three countries has been different. In Canada and Mexico, people of the region have also been unable to exercise democratic and effective control over their governments, which seem to be more concerned about protecting the interests of the transnational elite. The arrival of Barack Obama in the presidency of the United States, elected democratically, opens the way to a new era in the relations among the three countries.
Workers in the energy sector in the three countries, along with their unions and social movement groups, have been bearing the brunt of this frontal attack, with the disappearance of jobs en masse, and the loss of social supports. This is why we are seeking strategies and common actions to take on these challenges.
In that search, the major guiding principles of our tri-national relationship are:
1. Solidarity within and among sectors and peoples for the mutual defence of human, labour and environmental rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples and communities.
2. Sustainability, including on one hand, the creation of “green” jobs and generation of renewable energy from sources that are less polluting and lower in carbon emissions, and on the other, just transition toward a new energy grid, which implies compensating and supporting those who have lost or are at risk of losing their jobs in the sector as well as for communities affected either by the desertion of obsolete industries or changes in land use for the production of alternative energy sources.
3. Sovereignty of peoples to exercise their right of access to and use of their natural and energy resources limited only by democratic will, and the civilian oversight of the administration and regulation of resources, for example, removal of obligations relating to NAFTA’s proportionality principle, which requires the export of renewable and non-renewable resources even in times of scarcity in the country of origin.
Areas of action:
1) Development of a common vision on energy and reinforcement of coordination within each country;
2) The renegotiation of NAFTA to ensure that trade meets the needs of peoples and not those of corporations, and the rollback of the anti-democratic and secret SPP process;
3) The struggle for democratic labour law reform in the three countries to encourage free association, trade union autonomy, collective bargaining and trade union democracy and against neo-liberal reform proposals (such as the Lozano proposal in Mexico) and in favour of pro-union measures (such as the Employee Free Choice Act in the US);
4) International pressure on governments to enforce and respect labour rights, for example through the campaign against employer protection contracts in Mexico;
5) Pressure campaigns against transnational companies that violate labour human and environmental rights, by taking advantage of the influence unions in one country can bring to bear on the actions of the same employer in other countries;
6) Pressure to implement international measures to protect the environment that punish companies rather than developing countries;
7)Campaigns to stop privatization and deregulation processes;
8) Building alliances and cross-sectoral unity to look for holistic solutions;
9) Efforts to defend the environment to ensure a sustainable future for workers.
We are critical of the recent proposed statement of the Fifth Summit of the Americas to be held April 16 to 18 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, which stated that “the principles of the market, free trade and investment systems…are fundamental for economic growth, employment and the reduction of poverty.” On the contrary, we insist that this is the time to question such positions and propose a definitive rejection of the neo-liberal model. We should promote policies that favour energy and food sovereignty, mechanisms of citizen control and effective wealth redistribution programs that contribute to social justice.
We are committed to ongoing coordination with the unions in the energy sector along with the networks and social movement organizations and the global union federations in a spirit of hemispheric solidarity. Through new coordination mechanisms we are developing we will move toward union of the movements in each country in order to address the negative consequences of trade agreements and neo-liberal globalization policies, and create more just and sustainable conditions for our countries.
Founded in 1985, the Council of Canadians is Canada's largest advocacy organization, with members and chapters across the country. If you believe that our social programs and public services should be strengthened, not privatized; that our foreign and trade policies should be independent, not subservient to the United States; and that our water and natural resources should be protected, not exploited, please join us as a member.