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Unifor Leader Says NAFTA Deal Won’t Happen

The North American Free Trade Agreement “is going to blow up in 2018.”

That blunt assessment comes from the equally blunt Jerry Dias, president of the Canadian union Unifor.

This story by Eric Kulisch originally appeared in Automotive News.

Dias has long been a harsh critic of NAFTA. He said it has been disastrous for Canadian and U.S. manufacturing workers — on that much, he and President Donald Trump agree. And it hasn’t done much for Mexican workers, whose low wages and weak labor rights prevent them from being able to afford the vehicles they build, he said.

Dias, for his part, would prefer to see NAFTA not scrapped, but strengthened with better wage and labor standards for Mexicans that would make Canadian manufacturing a more competitive proposition and help stem the southward migration of jobs.

Many private-sector interests still hold out hope that the Trump administration’s hardline positions are simply negotiating tactics that will lead to a compromise, or that Congress will block attempts to unwind a deal that has helped increase U.S. manufacturing exports by 258 percent since its inception.

But given where the talks stand now, Dias said, that won’t happen.

Dias said that while he’s not at the negotiating table, he has a close-up view of the proceedings. He is among a group of stakeholders consulting with Canadian officials on the pact and has had multiple meetings with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, chief negotiator Steve Verheul and other Canadian officials, as well as U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Unifor represents workers in 20 of Canada’s largest industrial sectors, including telecommunications, health care and autos. That diversified membership gives the union a broad political base and more clout, Dias said, especially with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pro-labor Liberal Party.

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