Canada's Unifor pivots to GM after ratifying three-year contract with FCA

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Canadian labor union Unifor later this week will bargain with General Motors Co., the last of Detroit's three automakers, after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV employees on Monday ratified a new three-year contract by 78%.

After winning commitments for job security and investments for electrified vehicle production at Ford Motor Co. and FCA, Unifor now will seek similar promises from GM. The Detroit automaker's sprawling Oshawa facility previously staved off closure after Unifor agreed to make it a stamping and sub-assembly plant, saving 300 of 2,600 jobs. Meanwhile, two powertrain programs are set to expire at its St. Catharines plant.

Canadian labor union Unifor shifts its focus to negotiations with General Motors Co. after employees at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV ratified a new contract with  78% support.

"We need a product now," Unifor President Jerry Dias said during the negotiations kickoff in August. "The solution for Oshawa may very well be an electric vehicle in the long term, but frankly we need something today whether or not it's an SUV or pickup truck."

Unifor represents 4,100 GM workers, though 2,400 at GM's only assembly plant in Canada, CAMI, are covered by a different agreement that expires next year. 

Unifor represents about 9,000 FCA employees, the largest workforce of the three companies. The newly ratified agreement provides commitments for job security, including the return of the third shift at Windsor Assembly, investments of up to $1.2 billion, a $5,508 signing bonus, wage parity with Ford workers and returned shift premiums.

“Workers who have feared plant closures and job losses in recent years can now look forward to a bright future with good jobs for years to come,” Unifor President Jerry Dias said in a statement.

Windsor Assembly is expected to build a new electrified vehicle by 2024, which would lead to 2,000 new jobs after the 1,500-person third shift was cut this summer. More than 100 jobs will be added at Etobicoke Casting in Toronto with a $10.6 million investment. The agreement also secures product at Brampton Assembly through the contract's tenure.

The new agreement follows the pattern ratified by 58% of Ford's 6,400 Unifor members last month. It includes 5% increases to hourly rates, $3,039 inflation bonuses, and a 20% wage differential for skilled trades. The deal also establishes a new racial justice advocate position in the workplace as a part of an anti-racism action plan, commits to flying gay pride flags every June at all facilities, and grants workers up to 10 paid days of domestic violence leave 

“This agreement," Mark Stewart, FCA's chief operating officer in North America, said in a statement, "bolsters our global competitiveness and positions us for future growth with new product investment and new jobs, while also demonstrating our commitment to our employees, their families and the communities we represent.”

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble