Labor negotiations between Unifor and the Detroit 3 formally begin in Toronto on Wednesday, kicking off a round of talks that could prove pivotal to the future of Canada’s shrinking automotive assembly base.
“We’ve got our hands full with all of them,” Unifor President Jerry Dias told Automotive News Canada this week, ahead of the negotiations.
Union officials are scheduled to meet with executives from the Detroit companies at a downtown Toronto hotel beginning Wednesday morning. While Unifor leaders will exchange their demands with the automakers, the traditional handshakes between executives and union brass will not take place due to COVID-19 health concerns.
“It’ll be my opportunity to tell them exactly what’s on my mind and how I expect negotiations to proceed and what my drop-dead positions are,” Dias said.
Dias and FCA officials exchanged proposals at about 9:30 a.m., followed later in the day by executives at General Motors and Ford.
“FCA remains committed to Canada and we look forward to negotiating a fair agreement that will help us continue to invest in our future, while creating opportunities for our employees, their families and our communities,” Jacqueline Oliva, FCA Canada's head of human resources, said in a statement. “We have the largest hourly workforce and, in 2019, FCA Canada produced the most vehicles of the domestic three automakers. As the automotive industry continues to rapidly change, our goal in this round of negotiations is to reach a labor agreement that will sustain the Company’s competitiveness.”
General Motors and Unifor exchanged documents at 11:30 a.m.
“Our focus is to reach a new fair, flexible four-year agreement for the 1,600 represented employees at our St. Catharines Propulsion Plant, the new Oshawa OEM Stamped Products and Service Operations and the Woodstock Parts Distribution Center,” Matt Hough, general director, human resources and labor relations at GM Canada, said in a statement.
Contracts between Unifor, which represents about 20,000 workers in this round of negotiations, and the Detroit automakers expire on Sept. 21. Dias has said the union will push for product commitments from the companies at each of their Canadian plants, particularly at Ford Motor Co.’s Oakville assembly plant and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ facilities in Brampton and Windsor. (GM’s sole Canadian assembly plant, in Ingersoll, Ontario, is on a separate contract that ends in 2021.)