CUPE representatives, as well as delegates from leading energy sector unions and civil society organizations from Mexico, the United States and Canada met in Mexico City this week to confront the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). The SPP is a process undertaken by business and government leaders of the three countries to expand liberalization and privatization among the three countries. Formed in 2005, the meeting is a secretive discussion of economic, political, and security integration policy that is closed to public knowledge or legislative debate.
The network of civil society organizations and energy workers was formed three years ago with the objective of developing a common vision for energy security in North America, and an ongoing strategy for solidarity and support. This year, the group discussed challenges and strategies of workers and civil society with regard to the energy sector in the wake of the global economic crisis.
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. 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.”
Representatives from the three countries recognized that there is no one path to this transition but that putting the needs of workers is paramount.
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.