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Union chief: ‘Clear difference’ in talks with Ford, FCA

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Toronto — A day after Unifor President Jerry Dias issued scathing remarks about General Motors Co., the Canadian auto workers union president praised bargaining teams at Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles during the official opening to their labor negotiations.

“Today’s kickoff with Ford and with Chrysler were very productive, constructive, respectful,” Dias told reporters. “There’s a clear difference between today’s discussions and the discussions yesterday. We’re clearly in a different position than GM as it relates to expectations. Though we have similar challenges with Ford and FCA, they understand that investment decisions are going to be a part of 2016 negotiations.”

Just as the union is fearful for the future of GM’s Oshawa Assembly Plant, they have similar concerns for Ford’s Windsor Engine Plant and FCA’s Brampton Assembly Plant.

“We are at a crossroads in the industry here in Canada,” Dias said. “It’s clear to us that if we do not solidify the footprint in this set of negotiations, then the auto industry ... will be much smaller.”

Ford employs about 6,400 hourly workers at three plants in Canada: the Essex Engine Plant, Windsor Engine Plant and Oakville Assembly Plant. Oakville is by far the largest, with about 5,000 employees making the Edge, Flex, Lincoln MKT and MKX.

It has roughly 600 employees at the Windsor Engine Plant, which makes V-10 engines for the automaker’s heavy-duty trucks.

Steve Majer, Ford of Canada’s vice president of human resources, said in a statement Thursday that the two sides have a shared goal of long-term viability in Canada.

“The global landscape has significantly changed in four years, and through our discussions we’ll need to find innovative ways to be competitive and support our employees’ quality of life,” he said. “This will take new thinking, new approaches and new solutions, and we’ve proven in the past that together we can do it.”

FCA employs about 9,400 workers in Canada at assembly plants in Windsor and Brampton, as well as a Etobicoke Casting Plant in Toronto.

Brampton makes the Chrysler 300, Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger.

“As we head into these negotiations, we look forward to continuing that partnership while reaching a labour agreement that will sustain the Company’s competitiveness over the long term,” FCA said in a statement.

Despite the noticeably more positive tone, Dias said no one company stands out as being close to an agreement. He said the union will pick a target company on Sept. 6, and will look to set a pattern for the other two to follow.

“Neither Ford nor Chrysler have committed to any sort of investment,” Dias said. “Today they acknowledged the importance of those issues, I think they recognize they’re won’t be an agreement without it. We’re not closer to anybody at this point in time. I think we’ll know a heck of a lot more in the next few weeks.”

MMartinez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2401

Twitter.com/MikeMartinez_DN