The Province | January 09, 2008
Workers’ rights to be tied to free trade
Future free-trade agreements between Canada and countries in Central and South America must be tied to workers’ rights, Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn told business students at the University of B.C. yesterday.
"We are negotiating with Peru and Colombia," Blackburn told a gathering organized by the Sauder School of Business.
"We have now an agreement [on labour rights] reached with those two countries, but it won’t be made public until there will be a free-trade agreement formally signed by the two countries because there is no labour-rights agreement if there is no free-trade agreement," he said.
Blackburn said Canada’s basic demands with its free-trade partners include the right for workers to form a union, a ban on the exploitation of child labour and no workplace discrimination.
He said in Peru, for example, 50 per cent of the enterprises doing business there are not registered with the government, which allows them to avoid paying taxes and exploit workers and children.
Earlier, Blackburn announced plans to table legislation to protect the jobs of Forces reservists who leave federal-government jobs or jobs in the private sector in federally regulated industries to serve their country. Also, Canada’s 12,000 student reservists would have interest on student loans forgiven and loan payments suspended while serving.