Bargaining in Tough Times: CAW Collective Bargaining and Political Action Convention, 2002, International Issues


International Issues

Since our last Collective Bargaining Convention in 1999 business and political leaders have dramatically increased the reach of free trade. Most governments hide behind the rulings of unelected bureaucrats of the WTO. Others that wish to stand up for the rights of their citizens, find themselves locked-in by free trade deals.

Corporate globalization, and the institutions which underpin it, affect our communities, our jobs and our families in a direct way. A recent WTO ruling struck down the Canada-US Auto Pact. This severely limits our ability to protect jobs and shape future investment in Canada's most important industry. Other rulings attack government's capacity to support the aerospace industry in Canada, control drug prices and protect our environment. Rulings under the North American Free Trade Agreement consistently put corporate profit ahead of public good. Proposed WTO initiatives further threaten public social programs by making everything from water to health care, a commodity to be bought and sold for profit.

Governments in developed countries continue to pressure poorer and less developed ones into following their dictates. They use the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to force developing countries (and Eastern Europe) to privatize and deregulate the economy and to weaken labour and social rights.

This has created a vicious cycle of poverty and disease, unemployment and economic ruin.

A growing anti-globalization movement is confronting corporate power. Labour, young people, environmentalists, small farmers, women's groups and the unemployed have opposed privatization in Latin America, the Indian subcontinent, Africa, North America and Europe. They have organized against the demands of the IMF/World Bank in Korea and other East Asian countries. They have fought back against efforts to extend Free Trade deals throughout North and South America. Working people and the unemployed have taken to the streets in Argentina after right-wing economic policies bankrupted the country. Angry Korean auto workers have organized massive demonstrations to protest plant closures.

Activists from around the world organized the first and second World Social forums at Porto Alegre in Brazil, in 2001 and 2002. These served as a counter balance to the meetings of the rich in Davos, Switzerland and New York City. They provided a forum for working people and social activists from developed and developing countries - from North and South - to work together for solidarity and support.

Our union is part of this effort to strengthen democracy and resist corporate power. We will continue to educate our members about free trade and the need to strengthen worker rights and international solidarity. We will continue to support our members who have expressed their opposition through demonstrations in Seattle, Windsor, Quebec City and elsewhere.

Global Unions

Our union continues to build strong union-to-union and worker-to-worker links. We do this through our affiliation to global union organizations. These include: ICFTU (International Confederation of Free Trade Unions); IMF (International Metalworkers Federation); ITF (International Transport Workers Federation; IUF (International Union of Foodworkers) and UNI (Union Network International). These organizations bring together unions in similar sectors. They organize campaigns to resist efforts to lower wages and working conditions. They build solidarity and support for common struggles.

For example, we have participated in the ITF's Fatigue Kills/Road Transport campaign, fighting against excessive overtime for workers in the trucking industry. As well, we worked with the IMF, to build world auto councils, to demand fair and balanced corporate investment policies.

Worker solidarity has also taken a more direct form. When our members at Local 598 in Sudbury took on Falconbridge nickel, in a 7 month strike, workers at Falconbridge in Norway went on a five day solidarity strike, to show their support.

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