Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The NAFTA to TILMA to CETA race to the bottom

BC jobs go to Alberta; the profits go to Texas ...

The public utility BC Hydro is spending $1-billion to upgrade its transmission lines.

The Northwest Transmission Line contract - $364-525 million with 280 direct jobs per year - went to Valard Construction, based in Alberta and owned by Quanta Services from Texas. A BC company qualified as a bidder but were later told by Quanta to withdraw from the competition.
The Lower Mainland Transmission line - $540-780 million with 543 person years of work - is going to Graham-Flatiron, who subcontracted the line work to another Alberta company, also owned by Quanta.

The Columbia Valley Transmission project - $132-209 million - went to RS Line Contr.Co., another Alberta company.

As Doug McKay of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers told The Tyee, these companies come in with their own workers :

"They're scared to hire the people out here because we're quite unionized."
The B.C. jobs typically go to the lowest bidders, he said. "Here we look at low price and close our eyes and hope nobody gets killed," he said. "It's a race to the bottom as far as we're concerned."
According to BC Hydro :
"BC Hydro is subject to both the Agreement on Internal Trade and TILMA. BC Hydro’s policies require public competitive bids to be fair, transparent and open to all bidders who meet the requirements for each procurement. We do not track whether contractors are union or non-union."
So while the people of BC might expect to benefit from local jobs and revenue from their publicly owned electricity utility, TILMA and NAFTA sends those jobs and personal taxes to Alberta while the profits go on to Texas and BC Hydro doesn't care whether those jobs are union or not.

Meanwhile CETA, Steve's Canada-EU free trade agreement, promises more of the same "freedom" for foreign investors.
Here's the text of the negotiating mandates approved by the EU General Affairs Council for investment protection chapters in free trade agreements of the EU with Canada, India and Singapore. Note the last line.
Annex 1 TITLE 3 A : Investment protection
Objective: In accordance with the principles and the objectives of the Union's external action the respective provisions of the agreement shall provide for :
the highest possible level of legal protection and certainty for European investors in Canada/India/Singapore,
Scope: the investment protection title of the agreement shall cover a broad range of investors and their investments, intellectual property rights included, whether the investment is made before or after the entry into force of the agreement.

Enforcement: the agreement shall aim to provide for an effective investor-to state- dispute settlement mechanism. State-to-state dispute settlement will be included, but will not interfere with the right of investors to have recourse to the investor-to-state dispute settlement mechanism. It should provide for investors a wide range of arbitration fora as currently available under the Member States' bilateral investment agreements (BIT's).

Relationship with other parts of the agreement: the chapter on investment protection shall be a separate one, not linked to the market access commitments. These markets access commitments may include, when necessary, rules concerning performance requirements.

All the sub-federal or local entities and authorities (such as provinces or municipalities) must effectively comply with the investment protection chapter of this agreement


Purple library guy said...

I note that the situation might be less unpleasant if it weren't for the fact that not only the Alberta, but also the BC, companies are owned by this Texas outfit, which was therefore able to decide who would and who wouldn't be bidding.
It would appear that the parent company is pushing business away from unionized subsidiaries, towards non-union ones. Which underscores for me that what we need is not so much unionized workplaces as worker-owned workplaces. Along, to be sure, with less "free trade".

Kev said...

The India - EU talks are somewhat stalled over two issues one India's desire to protect its domestic auto industry and its reluctance to agree to the EUs demands for extended prescription drug patents.

Note Harper has no such qualms on either front

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