I’m not an expert on NAFTA and other trade agreements, but I just wanted to share my understanding of the impact such agreement can have on working conditions in North America.

The salary discrepancy between Canadian-American workers and those in Mexico is astounding. An assembly worker in USA could make $40-$50/h while one in Mexico could gain as low as $2.30/h. How can fair trade be maintained with such a difference in the cost of production? It is not surprising that President Trump see Mexico as a big commercial issue.

ThyssenKrupp’s new plant in Puebla, Mexico

[ThyssenKrupp’s new plant in Puebla, Mexico]

But from a socialist perspective, the impact on the workers is also terrible. At $2.30/h, you don’t bring much money home. Your capacity to afford basic necessities is limited, not talking about luxury items. The middle class is non-existing in Mexico. Workers live in crammed spaces, some provided by the government or by the corporations that control them.

The legal framework in Mexico is very weak and it’s poorly enforced. It allowed the creation of ‘Corporate Unions’ that maintain salaries to a bare minimum. Some of those Corporate unions were established years before enterprises hires their first employees, setting working conditions without workers involvement, consultation or any negotiations by the actual workers.

PIPSC involvement in the NAFTA negotiations is done thru the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), where the president Hassan Yussuff is part of a team representing North American workers. Pressure is made to the partners to establish fair working conditions, to raise the minimum wage to a reasonable level, and to establish health and safety protections. That work is also ongoing at the international level, thru the International Labour Organization (ILO), of which the CLC is also part of.

The situation in Canada is not perfect, and capitalist corporations are continually making pressure to discredit unions and limit the combined power of the unionized workers. Turning workers against each other’s, by using outsourcing and part time precarious workers is part of their toolkit. We have to resist and continue to ask for fair working conditions for all.


Stéphane Aubry
PIPSC Vice-President
Septembre 27, 2017