Canadian trade unions fight Canada-EU deal

Government claims about CETA's progressive elements won't satisfy unions


Canadian trade unions have openly expressed their vehement opposition to the Canada–EU trade deal known as CETA.

Yesterday, in an open statement, they have appealed to their German counterparts on the trade union confederation — the DGB — to oppose the deal after it became public that the DGB have been engaged in talks to help push the deal through, despite opposition from unions across Europe including the UK TUC and European TUC, and in their in their own country.

It comes as Germany’s economy minister said he expects Germany’s Social Democrats, a junior partner in the ruling coalition, to vote in favour of a free-trade agreement between Canada and the European Union at a party meeting on 19 September.

‘We will get a majority vote,’ said German Vice Chancellor and Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who is being touted to stand in the German elections against Angela Merkel.

Canada and Europe have spent years negotiating the free trade deal. Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said this week the Canadian government hoped to sign the deal in October.

Freeland said she would attend the SDP conference in Wolfsburg, Germany, on 19 September where she will highlight the deal’s progressive elements.

Gabriel said it would not be necessary to reopen negotiations for the agreement as ‘clarifications’ made in talks with Canada would help address the concerns of German trade unions.

It is believed that these clarifications will be in the form of a side letter or ‘protocol’, which carry no legal enforceability and have clearly incensed the Canadian trade union movement who have issued a statement insisting the CETA deal must be opened.

In a letter to the DGB’s Reiner Hoffman they say:

“The Canadian labour movement shares the DGB position that in order to address these defects in CETA, the text must be re-opened. A non-binding letter or statement will not over-ride anything already found in the text of CETA, and so will fall far short of addressing our concerns.”

Tony Burke is assistant general secretary of Unite responsible for manufacturing

See also: Juncker’s green light for CETA could mean TTIP by the back door

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