Department of Labor of the United States of America

Department of Labor of the United States of America
Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare of the United Mexican States

Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare of the United Mexican States
Labour Program of the Government of Canada

Labour Program of the Government of Canada

April 24, 2008 16:09 ET

North American Ministers of Labour Renew Their Commitment to Improving Trade and Working Conditions

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 24, 2008) -

Editors Note: A photo for this release will be available via Marketwire on the picture wire of The Canadian Press

Canada, the United States and Mexico today reaffirmed their commitment to the North American Agreement on Labour Cooperation (NAALC), as an important tool for protecting basic labour rights.

The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, the Honourable Elaine L. Chao, US Secretary of Labour, and the Honourable Javier Lozano Alarcon, Secretary of Labour and Social Welfare of Mexico, held the Eighth Ministerial Council meeting under the NAALC today in Ottawa.

"The meeting provided a great opportunity for the three of us to work together on issues that make a practical difference to improving the lives of workers," explained Minister Blackburn. "Through labour cooperation and trade, we are ensuring that people in all three countries enjoy a higher standard of living and decent, fair working conditions."

This meeting provided the three Council members with a unique opportunity to discuss priorities for the North American Commission for Labour Cooperation, identifying topics such as expanding youth employment, improving mine safety and protecting freedom of association.

The Council members also agreed on a joint declaration to address, through cooperation, the resolution of a public communication concerning freedom of association, the protection of the right to organize, and the right to bargain collectively in the Mexican state of Puebla. They also agreed to continue working together to expeditiously resolve pending consultations on public communications between Mexico and the United States on protection of migrant workers, freedom of association and protection of the right to organize, minimum working conditions and the elimination of discrimination in the workplace, and any future public communications "complaints".

"The benefits of free and fair trade are clear and this meeting provided an excellent opportunity to further improve working conditions and living standards for millions of North American workers and their families" said Secretary Chao. "Through the NAALC, we are launching many cooperative efforts to ensure that workers' rights are protected, and that the prosperity created by our growing trade relationship is shared by all."

"In the same way that NAFTA has contributed to tripling trade, and has stimulated investment and the creation of millions of jobs, the North American Agreement on Labour Cooperation has been a permanent forum on labour topics among the three countries. It is a mechanism for the promotion of labour principles through the exchange of successful experiences such as innovative practices to promote freedom of association and transparency with the use of technology, new ways of inclusive dialogue with organizations, and novel mechanisms to develop public labour policies in the federal and state levels in matters related to safety and health in the workplace," added Secretary Lozano Alarcon.

Under the NAALC, a side agreement to NAFTA, Canada, the United States and Mexico work together to share best practices in the field of labour law, and to ensure the application of existing legislation to protect workers' rights.

The NAALC came into effect in January 1994. The Ministerial Council meetings provide the three governments with an opportunity to oversee the implementation of the NAALC, discuss the Agreement's progress and establish priorities for future action.

Given the importance of the NAALC, Ministers agreed to convene future meetings of the Ministerial Council on an annual basis and to focus their discussions on the priorities established through today's session.

For more information, please visit www.labour.gc.ca.



MINISTERIAL CONSULTATIONS JOINT DECLARATION

Between

the Department of Labor of the United States of America,
the Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare of the United Mexican States,
and the Labour Program of the Government of Canada

Resolving Issues Raised in

U.S. NAO Public Communication US 2003-01 and
Canadian NAO Public Communication CAN 2003-1

under

the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation


The Secretary of Labor of the United States of America, Elaine L. Chao, the Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare of the United Mexican States, Javier Lozano Alarcon, and the Minister of Labour of Canada, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, in conformance with the provisions of the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), agreed to carry out ministerial consultations in a spirit of cooperation in order to address matters raised in public communications US 2003-01 and CAN 2003-1. The Secretaries and Minister hereby decide to resolve the matters raised in the aforementioned public communications regarding freedom of association and protection of the right to organize and the right to bargain collectively, principles which are contained in our respective labor laws.

Acknowledging the commitment of our Governments under the NAALC to ensure the effective enforcement and promotion of our labor laws and regulations;

Desiring to strengthen labor relationships between our three nations and to continue the cooperation that results in increasing economic and labor opportunities in the 21st century; and

Confirming our commitment to work collaboratively towards our shared objective under the NAALC to improve the working conditions and living standards of all workers;

The Department of Labor of the United States of America, the Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare of the United Mexican States, and the Labour Program of the Government of Canada have decided to undertake the following activities, to resolve the issues raised in the public communications and gain a better understanding of labor laws and practices in all three countries through information sharing, outreach, and exchange of best practices:

To mandate the Secretariat of the Commission for Labor Cooperation to work collaboratively with the National Administrative Offices to develop and prepare the following concerning the procedures to accept and resolve workers' complaints regarding unjustified dismissal for organizing or joining a union, processes for registration of unions, and access to collective bargaining agreements, and other relevant rights related to freedom of association and protection of the right to organize, and the right to bargain collectively in our three countries:

- a background report and a guide describing labor laws, regulations and procedures, as well as best practices in implementation; and

- informational materials such as brochures, pamphlets, and videos.

This information is to be made available to workers, individuals, businesses, and organizations; and is to be disseminated in all three countries, after approval by the Council.

The Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare of the United Mexican States is to host a government-to-government session in Puebla with federal and state officials for an exchange of information on best practices in the processing of workers' complaints of unjustified dismissal, transparent procedures for the registration of unions, and access to collective agreements and labor-management cooperation mechanisms in our three countries in the federal and state/provincial jurisdictions. The session is to be followed by a seminar with other relevant stakeholders to share and build upon the information gathered through this government exchange.

The Department of Labor of the United States of America, the Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare of the United Mexican States, and the Labour Program of the Government of Canada are to share experiences regarding best practices concerning the exchange of information about labor related issues among different levels of governments in federal states in each country.

The National Administrative Offices of our three countries are to work collaboratively to develop a work plan for carrying out the activities called for under this Declaration within 90 days. These activities should be completed within 15 months of the work plan approval date.

The Department of Labor of the United States of America, the Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare of the United Mexican States, and the Labour Program of the Government of Canada are to promote ongoing collaboration to replicate existing model efforts within Mexico to protect labor rights of Mexican workers, such as the successful efforts at the federal level to provide public access through the internet to collective bargaining agreements and registered unions within its jurisdiction.


The Department of Labor of the United States of America, the Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare of the United Mexican States, and the Labour Program of the Government of Canada are to make available public information shared under the activities conducted pursuant to this Joint Declaration.



Signed at Ottawa, this 24th day of April, 2008, in English, Spanish and
French.

FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:
Elaine L. Chao, Secretary of Labor, United States of America

FOR THE SECRETARIAT OF LABOR AND SOCIAL WELFARE OF THE UNITED MEXICAN
STATES:
Javier Lozano Alarcon, Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare United Mexican
States

FOR THE LABOUR PROGRAM OF THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA:
Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Labour, Canada


BACKGROUNDER

North American Agreement on Labour Cooperation

The North American Agreement on Labour Cooperation (NAALC) came into effect in January 1994. It is one of two parallel accords to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The NAALC is administered by the Commission for Labour Cooperation, which consists of the Council of Ministers-a cabinet-level body charged with policy setting and decision making-and a trinational secretariat based in Washington. A National Administrative Office (NAO) was created in each country to implement the Agreement and serve as a point of contact. In Canada, the NAO is housed within the Labour Program's Office for Inter-American Labour Cooperation.

The NAALC is the first agreement to link labour rights and labour standards to an international trade agreement. It highlights cooperation on labour matters, the promotion of eleven principles in three key areas of labour law (industrial relations, occupational health and safety, and employment standards) and the effective enforcement of domestic labour law in the three NAFTA countries.

The agreement does not establish common standards. Instead, it imposes a commitment upon each country to effectively enforce its domestic labour laws through appropriate domestic measures.

A Cooperative Work Program is implemented under the NAALC every year. To date, more than 50 activities related to industrial relations, occupational health and safety, and employment standards have taken place. Recent cooperative activities have included a trilateral conference on corporate social responsibility (Ottawa, 2005), a seminar on population aging and labour market interdependence in North America (Mexico, 2006) and a government experts workshop on the role of labour ministries and inspectors in ensuring mining safety (Mexico, 2007).

The NAALC also provides a forum for reviewing concerns about the effective application of labour law in Canada, the United States and Mexico, and for raising labour issues among the NAFTA partners. So far, 34 public communications concerning the effective application of labour law have been received, seven of which involved Canada either as the recipient or the subject of the complaint.

Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and Prince Edward Island have signed the Canadian Intergovernmental Agreement enabling provincial participation in the implementation of the NAALC in Canada. Since 2002, the Labour Program has been engaged with provincial and territorial governments in a renewed political dialogue in the hope of increasing their participation in international agreements on labour cooperation. The NAALC also provides for the establishment of a governmental committee in each country to advise on the implementation of the Agreement in its territory. In Canada, this federal-provincial governmental committee is co-chaired by the federal government and one of the signatory provinces. The provincial co-chair is traditionally invited to participate in meetings of the NAALC's ministerial council.

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Contact Information

  • Human Resources and Social Development Canada
    Media Relations Office
    819-994-5559
    or
    Office of Minister Blackburn
    Michael Winterburn
    819-953-5646
    or
    Office of Secretary Chao
    Office of Public Affairs
    U.S. Department of Labour
    200 Constitution Avenue NW, Room S-1032
    Washington, D.C. 20210
    202-693-4676
    or
    Office of Secretary of Labour and Social Welfare,
    Javier Lozano Alarcon
    Hector Alcudia, Office of Secretary Lozano Alarcon
    General Director for Social Communication
    Secretariat of Labour and Social Welfare, Mexico
    5255-3000-2273/www.stps.gob.mx