Canadian auto workers OK contract with Ford

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. of Canada on Monday finalized a new labor agreement with Canadian autoworkers that will bring a $1.5 billion (U.S.) investment from the automaker to build battery-electric vehicles in Canada.

Unifor union members who work for Ford ratified new, three-year collective agreements with 81% voting in favor, the union said Monday.

Jerry Dias, Unifor national president, hailed the deal with Ford as "the single biggest investment in the Canadian auto industry in years providing long-term job security for Unifor members."

Unifor President Jerry Dias stands with members of the bargaining committee last week after reaching a tentative three-year labor agreement with Ford Motor Co.

Ford has agreed to transform its Oakville Assembly Complex near Toronto from an internal combustion engine facility to a battery-electric vehicle plant, beginning in 2024. The new EV lineup coming out of the facility will include a crossover utility vehicle.

Oakville's current products, the Ford Edge and Lincoln Nautilus, are slated to go out of production in 2023.

“This agreement is perfect timing and positions our members at the forefront of the electric vehicle transformation, as the Oakville plant will be a key BEV supplier to the North American and European Union markets,” Dias said.

Additionally, Ford will invest more than $110 million in its Windsor powertrain facilities: "Ford has committed to source new 6.X L engines to the Windsor Engine Plant and sole source 5.0L engine assembly and current component machining to the Essex Engine plant, along with any derivatives," Unifor said in a release.

Under the new agreement, Ford's hourly workers will receive 2.5% wage increases twice over the course of the three-year agreement; ratification bonuses; and a reduced grow-in period of eight years for new hires, down from 11 years, according to the automaker.

Employees agreed to measures Ford says will increase efficiency at its Canadian facilities, including "competitive alternative work schedules" and an expansion of a temporary employee program.

“Working collaboratively with Unifor, and as discussions continue with both the federal and provincial governments, this agreement is an important step toward building a stronger future for our employees, our customers and our communities,” Dean Stoneley, Ford of Canada president and CEO, said in a statement. “By introducing battery electric vehicle production at Oakville Assembly Complex, we are cementing our Canadian operations as a leader in advanced automotive manufacturing.”

Unifor noted other benefits it secured from Ford, including inflation protection bonuses and the re-instatement of premiums for afternoon and midnight shifts. The union said skilled trades workers will receive a reinstated 20% wage differential. And commitments were made on racial justice advocacy and paid domestic violence leave.

"We went into bargaining with two major priorities, to secure new product allocation and make progress on wages and working conditions for our members, and I think it's safe to say we hit a home run on both fronts," John D'Agnolo, chair of the union's master bargaining committee, said in a statement.

The union had selected Ford as the lead company on which it would pattern its negotiations with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and General Motors Co. Unifor is scheduled to begin talks with FCA later this week.

Unifor has said it will seek new investments for FCA's Windsor plant and Brampton plant near Toronto. 

"FCA Canada welcomes the opportunity to move our discussions with Unifor forward," the company said in a statement. "We are committed to reaching an agreement that will allow us to continue investing in our future and create opportunities for our employees, their families and the communities where we live and work."

Twitter: @JGrzelewski

Staff Writer Breana Noble contributed.