How Trade Union Ombudsman and union lawyers are fighting back

On April 11, 2015, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) filed a complaint with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) alleging that the Canadian government was breaching the trade unions’ right to collective bargaining.

The complaint, filed by ITUC-Canada and the Canadian Labour Congress, accuses the Canadian labour ministry of violating the Canada-EU Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA), and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreements, and of failing to adequately respond to the union’s request for a meeting with Canada’s Trade Minister.

The ITUC alleges that Canada’s trade ministry, with the assistance of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIA), failed to comply with the WTO’s ruling that a trade union must be consulted before collective bargaining is permitted.

It also alleges that the government’s failure to comply was due to the lack of “effective and effective mechanisms” to deal with the union.

The government has previously dismissed the union complaint, arguing that it was “not credible” and that it had “no authority to bring the case to the WTO.”

It is not the first time the ITUC has raised its concerns with the government over the CFTA, which was ratified by the Canadian parliament in 2012 and entered into force in January 2015.

The Canadian government’s response to the ITU’s complaint is not a surprise.

In a February 2017 statement, Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAT) told the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that “it is our position that the CETA negotiations are conducted in good faith, with full information sharing and with full disclosure.”

It added that “any claims of breaches of international law are entirely without merit.”

However, the ITUSC has argued that Canada is “unable to make the case for its position.”

In its submission to the Canadian Senate, the union argues that the CFTAs failure to consult with the ITCSA and to provide meaningful information to the public about its “troubling” decision to withdraw from the trade deal is a “clear indication of the failure of the government to meet its obligations under the CFTC and the NAFTA.”

The ITU-Canada complaint alleges that there is a lack of transparency and a lack to provide a full accounting of the CFTSA and NAFTA.

The government has also failed to provide information to Parliament on the extent to which its decision to exit the CFTFAs, NAFTA and the trade agreement with Canada was based on an analysis of the public interest and a detailed public consultation process, it says.

“We are disappointed that the minister did not listen to our calls for transparency and the public consultation that was initiated in 2015 and that the information he did provide to Parliament was not a full account of the process that led to Canada’s decision,” the union said in a statement.

“We are confident that the Minister of Foreign and International Affairs will act swiftly to resolve this matter.”

The minister has refused to comment on the ITUK’s complaint.