For immediate release
August 4, 2005
514) 387-6129 or [email protected]
Canadian Garment Workers Turn to PM as Job Losses Mount
Workers in Canada’s garment and textile industry are turning to Prime Minister Paul Martin for help this week as Chinese clothing imports swamp Canadian markets at ever-increasing rates and job losses accelerate.
New statistics demonstrate that 3,800 jobs were lost during the last month for which statistics are available and 25% of employment in the industry, Canada’s 6th largest manufacturing sector, has been wiped out in the last seventeen months. UNITE HERE Canada, the union representing 10,000 workers in Canada’s garment industry, is appealing directly to Prime Minister Martin to implement existing World Trade Organization (WTO) safeguards on Chinese clothing imports. Those imports have skyrocketed 350% in some categories since quotas were lifted at the beginning of the year.
“The Prime Minister has the right and indeed the responsibility to immediately implement safeguards to curb these escalating rates of imports and to save thousands of jobs, but to date has failed to take action,” says UNITE HERE Canadian director Alex Dagg. “As the floor falls out from beneath these workers, the Prime Minister needs to understand that if he is not part of the solution, he is truly part of the problem.”
Since quotas on Chinese clothing imports were dropped at the beginning of 2005, the numbers have been staggering. For men’s jackets and blazers, imports from China grew 358% in the first five months of 2005, compared to a growth rate of 282% for the first four months of the year. In women’s pants, the growth rate accelerated from 228% to 246%. In women’s skirts, the growth rate accelerated from 216% to 233%.
On July 8, the union petitioned the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) to examine the surge in Chinese clothing imports and recommend import controls. When China entered the WTO, it agreed that safeguards might be necessary to allow homegrown industries time to adjust. Under WTO rules, China’s trading partners can limit imports to 7.5% growth annually.
The CITT responded on July 29 writing that it is considering the request but stating its position that workers alone cannot invoke the safeguard mechanism. However, the Prime Minister continues to have the option to directly intervene and enact safeguard mechanisms himself. Given the growing crisis in the industry, the delay in the CITT’s full decision makes it more crucial for the Prime Minister to take immediate action.
“The tens of thousands of workers in this industry are relying on the Prime Minister to make use of a mechanism already being invoked by governments in the U.S., European Union, and numerous other countries around the world,” says Dagg. “We are calling on the Prime Minister to act.”
UNITE HERE is a union representing over 50,000 members in Canada and more than 440,000 people across North America. UNITE HERE’s diverse membership includes many recent immigrants and a high proportion of women, representing workers in: hotels; casinos; apparel, textile and general manufacturing; apparel distribution centers; apparel retail; industrial laundries; food service; airport concessions; and restaurants. UNITE HERE was formed on July 8, 2004, from the merger of UNITE (formerly the Union of Needletrades, Textiles and Industrial Employees) and HERE (Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union). UNITE HERE’s website is www.unitehere.ca