NORTH AMERICAN AGREEMENT ON LABOR COOPERATION BETWEEN
THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA,
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED MEXICAN STATES AND
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
The Government of the United States of America, the Government
of Canada and the Government of the United Mexican States:
RECALLING their resolve in the North American Free Trade Agreement
- create an expanded and secure market for the goods and services
produced in their territories,
- enhance the competitiveness of their firms in global markets,
- create new employment opportunities and improve working conditions
and living standards in their respective territories, and
- protect, enhance and enforce basic workers' rights;
AFFIRMING their continuing respect for each Party's constitution
DESIRING to build on their respective international commitments
and to strengthen their cooperation on labor matters;
RECOGNIZING that their mutual prosperity depends on the promotion
of competition based on innovation and rising levels of productivity
SEEKING to complement the economic opportunities created by the
NAFTA with the human resource development, labor-management cooperation
and continuous learning that characterize high-productivity economies;
ACKNOWLEDGING that protecting basic workers' rights will encourage
firms to adopt high-productivity competitive strategies;
RESOLVED to promote, in accordance with their respective laws,
high-skill, high-productivity economic development in North America
- investing in continuous human resource development, including
for entry into the workforce and during periods of unemployment;
- promoting employment security and career opportunities for
all workers through referral and other employment services;
- strengthening labor-management cooperation to promote greater
dialogue between worker organizations and employers and to foster
creativity and productivity in the workplace;
- promoting higher living standards as productivity increases;
- encouraging consultation and dialogue between labor, business
and government both in each country and in North America;
- fostering investment with due regard for the importance of
labor laws and principles;
- encouraging employers and employees in each country to comply
with labor laws and to work together in maintaining a progressive,
fair, safe and healthy working environment;
BUILDING on existing institutions and mechanisms in Canada, Mexico
and the United States to achieve the preceding economic and social
CONVINCED of the benefits to be gained from further cooperation
between them on labor matters;
HAVE AGREED AS FOLLOWS:
PART ONE : OBJECTIVES
Article 1: Objectives
The objectives of this Agreement are to:
(a) improve working conditions and living standards in each Party's
PART TWO: OBLIGATIONS
(b) promote, to the maximum extent possible, the labor principles
set out in Annex 1;
(c) encourage cooperation to promote innovation and rising levels
of productivity and quality;
(d) encourage publication and exchange of information, data development
and coordination, and joint studies to enhance mutually beneficial
understanding of the laws and institutions governing labor in
each Party's territory;
(e) pursue cooperative labor-related activities on the basis of
(f) promote compliance with, and effective enforcement by each
Party of, its labor law; and
(g) foster transparency in the administration of labor law.
Article 2: Levels of Protection
Affirming full respect for each Party's constitution, and recognizing
the right of each Party to establish its own domestic labor standards,
and to adopt or modify accordingly its labor laws and regulations,
each Party shall ensure that its labor laws and regulations provide
for high labor standards, consistent with high quality and productivity
workplaces, and shall continue to strive to improve those standards
in that light.
Article 3: Government Enforcement Action
1. Each Party shall promote compliance with and effectively enforce
its labor law through appropriate government action, subject to
Article 42, such as:
(a) appointing and training inspectors;
(b) monitoring compliance and investigating suspected violations,
including through on-site inspections;
(c) seeking assurances of voluntary compliance;
(d) requiring record keeping and reporting;
(e) encouraging the establishment of worker-management committees
to address labor regulation of the workplace;
(f) providing or encouraging mediation, conciliation and arbitration
(g) initiating, in a timely manner, proceedings to seek appropriate
sanctions or remedies for violations of its labor law.
2. Each Party shall ensure that its competent authorities give
due consideration in accordance with its law to any request by
an employer, employee or their representatives, or other interested
person, for an investigation of an alleged violation of the Party's
Article 4: Private Action
1. Each Party shall ensure that persons with a legally recognized
interest under its law in a particular matter have appropriate
access to administrative, quasi-judicial, judicial or labor tribunals
for the enforcement of the Party's labor law.
2. Each Party's law shall ensure that such persons may have recourse
to, as appropriate, procedures by which rights arising under:
(a) its labor law, including in respect of occupational safety
and health, employment standards, industrial relations and migrant
(b) collective agreements, can be enforced.
Article 5: Procedural Guarantees
1. Each Party shall ensure that its administrative, quasi-judicial,
judicial and labor tribunal proceedings for the enforcement of
its labor law are fair, equitable and transparent and, to this
end, each Party shall provide that:
(a) such proceedings comply with due process of law;
(b) any hearings in such proceedings are open to the public, except
where the administration of justice otherwise requires;
(c) the parties to such proceedings are entitled to support or
defend their respective positions and to present information or
(d) such proceedings are not unneccessarily complicated and do
not entail unreasonable charges or time limits or unwarranted
2. Each Party shall provide that final decisions on the merits
of the case in such proceedings are:
(a) in writing and preferably state the reasons on which the decisions
(b) made available without undue delay to the parties to the proceedings
and, consistent with its law, to the public; and
(c) based on information or evidence in respect of which the parties
were offered the opportunity to be heard.
3. Each Party shall provide, as appropriate, that parties to such
proceedings have the right, in accordance with its law, to seek
review and, where warranted, correction of final decisions issued
in such proceedings.
4. Each Party shall ensure that tribunals that conduct or review
such proceedings are impartial and independent and do not have
any substantial interest in the outcome of the matter.
5. Each Party shall provide that the parties to administrative,
quasi-judicial, judicial or labor tribunal proceedings may seek
remedies to ensure the enforcement of their labor rights. Such
remedies may include, as appropriate, orders, compliance agreements,
fines, penalties, imprisonment, injunctions or emergency workplace
6. Each Party may, as appropriate, adopt or maintain labor defense
offices to represent or advise workers or their organizations.
7. Nothing in this Article shall be construed to require a Party
to establish, or to prevent a Party from establishing, a judicial
system for the enforcement of its labor law distinct from its
system for the enforcement of laws in general.
8. For greater certainty, decisions by each Party's administrative,
quasi-judicial, judicial or labor tribunals, or pending decisions,
as well as related proceedings shall not be subject to revision
or reopened under the provisions of this Agreement.
Article 6: Publication
1. Each Party shall ensure that its laws, regulations, procedures
and administrative rulings of general application respecting any
matter covered by this Agreement are promptly published or otherwise
made available in such a manner as to enable interested persons
and Parties to become acquainted with them.
2. When so established by its law, each Party shall:
(a) publish in advance any such measure that it proposes to adopt;
(b) provide interested persons a reasonable opportunity to comment
on such proposed measures.
Article 7: Public Information and Awareness
Each Party shall promote public awareness of its labor law, including
(a) ensuring that public information is available related to its
labor law and enforcement and compliance procedures; and
PART THREE: COMMISSION FOR LABOR COOPERATION
(b) promoting public education regarding its labor law.
Article 8: The Commission
1. The Parties hereby establish the Commission for Labor Cooperation.
2. The Commission shall comprise a ministerial Council and a Secretariat.
The Commission shall be assisted by the National Administrative
Office of each Party.
Section A: The Council
Article 9: Council Structure and Procedures
1. The Council shall comprise labor ministers of the Parties or
2. The Council shall establish its rules and procedures.
3. The Council shall convene:
(a) at least once a year in regular session, and
(b) in special session at the request of any Party.
Regular sessions shall be chaired successively by each Party.
4. The Council may hold public sessions to report on appropriate
5. The Council may:
(a) establish, and assign responsibilities to, committees, working
groups or expert groups; and
(b) seek the advice of independent experts.
6. All decisions and recommendations of the Council shall be taken
by consensus, except as the Council may otherwise decide or as
otherwise provided in this Agreement.
Article 10: Council Functions
1. The Council shall be the governing body of the Commission and
(a) oversee the implementation and develop recommendations on
the further elaboration of this Agreement and, to this end, the
Council shall, within four years after the date of entry into
force of this Agreement, review its operation and effectiveness
in the light of experience;
(b) direct the work and activities of the Secretariat and of any
committees or working groups convened by the Council;
(c) establish priorities for cooperative action and, as appropriate,
develop technical assistance programs on the matters set out in
(d) approve the annual plan of activities and budget of the Commission;
(e) approve for publication, subject to such terms or conditions
as it may impose, reports and studies prepared by the Secretariat,
independent experts or working groups;
(f) facilitate Party-to-Party consultations, including through
the exchange of information;
(g) address questions and differences that may arise between the
Parties regarding the interpretation or application of this Agreement;
(h) promote the collection and publication of comparable data
on enforcement, labor standards and labor market indicators.
2. The Council may consider any other matter within the scope
of this Agreement and take such other action in the exercise of
its functions as the Parties may agree.
Article 11: Cooperative Activities
1. The Council shall promote cooperative activities between the
Parties, as appropriate, regarding:
(a) occupational safety and health;
(b) child labor;
(c) migrant workers of the Parties;
(d) human resource development;
(e) labor statistics;
(f) work benefits;
(g) social programs for workers and their families;
(h) programs, methodologies and experiences regarding productivity
(i) labor-management relations and collective bargaining procedures;
(j) employment standards and their implementation;
(k) compensation for work-related injury or illness;
(l) legislation relating to the formation and operation of unions,
collective bargaining and the resolution of labor disputes, and
(m) the equality of women and men in the workplace;
(n) forms of cooperation among workers, management and government;
(o) the provision of technical assistance, at the request of a
Party, for the development of its labor standards; and
(p) such other matters as the Parties may agree.
2. In carrying out the activities referred to in paragraph 1,
the Parties may, commensurate with the availability of resources
in each Party, cooperate through:
(a) seminars, training sessions, working groups and conferences;
(b) joint research projects, including sectoral studies;
(c) technical assistance; and
(d) such other means as the Parties may agree.
3. The Parties shall carry out the cooperative activities referred
to in paragraph 1 with due regard for the economic, social, cultural
and legislative differences between them.
Section B: The Secretariat
Article 12: Secretariat Structure and Procedures
1. The Secretariat shall be headed by an Executive Director, who
shall be chosen by the Council for a three-year term, which may
be renewed by the Council for one additional three-year term.
The position of Executive Director shall rotate consecutively
between nationals of each Party. The Council may remove the Executive
Director solely for cause.
2. The Executive Director shall appoint and supervise the staff
of the Secretariat, regulate their powers and duties and fix their
remuneration in accordance with general standards to be established
by the Council. The general standards shall provide that:
(a) staff shall be appointed and retained, and their conditions
of employment shall be determined, strictly on the basis of efficiency,
competence and integrity;
(b) in appointing staff, the Executive Director shall take into
account lists of candidates prepared by the Parties;
(c) due regard shall be paid to the importance of recruiting an
equitable proportion of the professional staff from among the
nationals of each Party; and
(d) the Executive Director shall inform the Council of all appointments.
3. The number of staff positions shall initially be set at 15
and may be changed thereafter by the Council.
4. The Council may decide, by a two-thirds vote, to reject any
appointment that does not meet the general standards. Any such
decision shall be made and held in confidence.
5. In the performance of their duties, the Executive Director
and the staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any
government or any other authority external to the Council. Each
Party shall respect the international character of the responsibilities
of the Executive Director and the staff and shall not seek to
influence them in the discharge of their responsibilities.
6. The Secretariat shall safeguard:
(a) from disclosure information it receives that could identify
an organization or person if the person or organization so requests
or the Secretariat otherwise considers it appropriate; and
(b) from public disclosure any information it receives from any
organization or person where the information is designated by
that organization or person as confidential or proprietary.
7. The Secretariat shall act under the direction of the Council
in accordance with Article 10(1)(b).
Article 13: Secretariat Functions
1. The Secretariat shall assist the Council in exercising its
functions and shall provide such other support as the Council
2. The Executive Director shall submit for the approval of the
Council the annual plan of activities and budget for the Commission,
including provision for contingencies and proposed cooperative
3. The Secretariat shall report to the Council annually on its
activities and expenditures.
4. The Secretariat shall periodically publish a list of matters
resolved under Part Four or referred to Evaluation Committees
Article 14: Secretariat Reports and Studies
1. The Secretariat shall periodically prepare background reports
setting out publicly available information supplied by each Party
(a) labor law and administrative procedures;
(b) trends and administrative strategies related to the implementation
and enforcement of labor law;
(c) labor market conditions such as employment rates, average
wages and labor productivity; and
(d) human resource development issues such as training and adjustment
2. The Secretariat shall prepare a study on any matter as the
Council may request. The Secretariat shall prepare any such study
in accordance with terms of reference established by the Council,
(a) consider any relevant information;
(b) where it does not have specific expertise in the matter, engage
one or more independent experts of recognized experience; and
(c) include proposals on the matter.
3. The Secretariat shall submit a draft of any report or study
that it prepares pursuant to paragraph 1 or 2 to the Council.
If the Council considers that a report or study is materially
inaccurate or otherwise deficient, the Council may remand it to
the Secretariat for reconsideration or other disposition.
4. Secretariat reports and studies shall be made public 45 days
after their approval by the Council, unless the Council otherwise
Section C: National Administrative Offices
Article 15: National Administrative Office Structure
1. Each Party shall establish a National Administrative Office
(NAO) at the federal government level and notify the Secretariat
and the other Parties of its location.
2. Each Party shall designate a Secretary for its NAO, who shall
be responsible for its administration and management.
3. Each Party shall be responsible for the operation and costs
of its NAO.
Article 16: NAO Functions
1. Each NAO shall serve as a point of contact with:
(a) governmental agencies of that Party;
(b) NAOs of the other Parties; and
(c) the Secretariat.
2. Each NAO shall promptly provide publicly available information
(a) the Secretariat for reports under Article 14(1);
(b) the Secretariat for studies under Article 14(2);
(c) a NAO of another Party; and
(d) an ECE.
3. Each NAO shall provide for the submission and receipt, and
periodically publish a list, of public communications on labor
law matters arising in the territory of another Party. Each NAO
shall review such matters, as appropriate, in accordance with
Section D: National Committees
Article 17: National Advisory Committee
Each Party may convene a national advisory committee, comprising
members of its public, including representatives of its labor
and business organizations and other persons, to advise it on
the implementation and further elaboration of this Agreement.
Article 18: Governmental Committee
Each Party may convene a governmental committee, which may comprise
or include representatives of federal and state or provincial
governments, to advise it on the implementation and further elaboration
of this Agreement.
Section E: Official Languages
Article 19: Official Languages
The official languages of the Commission shall be English, French
and Spanish. The Council shall establish rules and procedures
regarding interpretation and translation.
Continues in Part Four