Unifor opened talks on new labor contracts with Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, kicking off a round of negotiations the union has framed as critical to the future of auto manufacturing in Canada.
Details of the proposals were not immediately known on Thursday, though Unifor President Jerry Dias said Ford and FCA were more open to addressing union’s hard line on new investment than GM, with whom it opened talks on Wednesday. While describing talks with GM as “respectful,” discussions with Ford and FCA were more “productive” and “constructive,” he said.
"They understand that investment decisions are going to be a part of 2016 negotiations,” Dias said at a press conference today in Toronto, while noting that Ford and FCA have yet to commit new products to any plant.
Unifor has repeatedly said its top priority in negotiations with the automakers will be securing new product and investments in Ford’s Windsor engine plants, in FCA’s Brampton assembly plant, which produces the Chrysler 300, Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger, and at GM’s Oshawa assembly plant, which makes four models.
“The Canadian footprint drop is going to stop as a result of 2016 bargaining,” Dias said.
The Detroit 3 automakers’ current labor contracts with Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, expire on Sept. 19. Dias said today that the union would pick a target company to establish pattern bargaining on Sept. 6.
Dias said the top priority for Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, in negotiations with Ford would be to secure new investment at the Windsor engine plants. Canada missed out on new Ford engine production there last year when Ford said it would build a new plant in Mexico after failing to reach a deal with federal and provincial governments in Canada.
Steve Majer, Ford of Canada vice president of human resources, said in a statement that the automaker is “ready to overcome the challenges” it faces in Canada.
“We approach the process with a shared goal -- to pursue long-term viability for Canadian auto manufacturing,” Majer said. “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’ way of life.”
Ford’s Windsor engine plants produce 6.8-liter V10 engines and 5.0-liter V-8 engines.