No Labor Deal Without New Canadian Investment From Detroit Three: Union Boss

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
no labor deal without new canadian investment from detroit three union boss

Detroit Three automakers need to invest in their Canadian operations or it’s no deal, the president of the union representing hourly workers said yesterday.

Contract talks kick off tomorrow between the automakers and Unifor, but a cloud already hangs over the negotiations in the form of recent threats of a strike and GM’s reluctance to talk about its Oshawa plant’s future.

Existing contracts expire on September 19, and Unifor president Jerry Dias makes it clear that no deal will be reached without a commitment to preserve the future of Canadian assembly operations. One automaker’s failure to follow through could affect the remaining two.

“These are perhaps the most important auto contract talks in a generation,” Dias said in a release. “There will be no deals with any of the companies without commitments from each of them for investments in Canada.”

Last week, a report said that Oshawa’s Consolidated Line, which employs 750 workers, will certainly close next year. The assembly line currently handles overflow Chevrolet Equinox production from the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, but the model is due for a revamp in 2017. Other Oshawa products, like the Impala, Buick Regal and Cadillac XTS, are bleeding away. Camaro production moved stateside last year, which led to 1,000 layoffs.

Sources quoted in the same report said the closure of the Flex Line is not a “foregone conclusion.” According to GM, three-quarters of its hourly Oshawa employees qualify for full retirement.

“The automakers’ relative health and the strength of the North American auto market make now the ideal time to invest,” Dias said, referring to the cost-cutting of the recession/bankruptcy years.

Ford’s Windsor engine plant and Fiat Chrysler’s Brampton assembly plant are other aging facilities in need of new product.

Dias previously said that getting a new product into the Windsor plant, which builds the Triton V10, won’t be easy. The Brampton plant, which builds the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Challenger, has the oldest paint shop in the industry. FCA plans to ditch the LX platform and move its full-size cars to a new rear-drive platform sourced from Alfa Romeo.

According to a recent report, sources say the platform swap — originally slated for late 2018 — won’t happen until after 2020. If true, that buys Brampton some time, but workers at the plant weren’t happy to hear FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne muse that the 300 could adopt the Chrysler Pacifica’s platform.

No product commitment for Oshawa, Windsor or Brampton? No deal, and expect strike action.

“It’s going to be intense,” Dias told Automotive News. “Everyone knows what’s at stake.”

Working in Unifor’s favor is the low Canadian dollar and the health of the three automakers. Dias feels he can make a convincing financial argument for the Detroit Three to stay, and invest, in Canada.

“If we can’t solidify the footprint in that market, we’re never going to solidify the footprint,” Dias said. “So, guess what? We’re going to solidify the footprint.”

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  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Aug 10, 2016

    Serious question. So Jerry represents the former CAW in all of its operations and thus can have the power to call a strike at FCA, Ford, and GM plants simultaneously. But, do FCA, Ford, and GM have the ability to meet with each other and come up with a joint plan to deal with Jerry since he threatens all of them?

  • Mikey Mikey on Aug 10, 2016

    To answer your question . GM, Ford and FCA , have done just that, and they will do just that.

  • Sayahh Is it 1974 or 1794? The article is inconsistent.
  • Laura I just buy a Hyndai Elantra SEL, and My car started to have issues with the AC dont work the air sometimes is really hot and later cold and also I heard a noice in the engine so I went to the dealer for the first service and explain what was hapenning to the AC they told me that the car was getting hot because the vent is not working I didnt know that the car was getting hot because it doesnt show nothing no sign no beep nothing I was surprise and also I notice that it needed engine oil, I think that something is wrong with this car because is a model 23 and I just got it on April only 5 months use. is this normal ? Also my daughter bought the same model and she went for a trip and the car also got hot and it didnt show up in the system she called them and they said to take the car to the dealer for a check up I think that if the cars are new they shouldnt be having this problems.
  • JamesGarfield What charging network does the Polestar use?
  • JamesGarfield Re: Getting away from union plantsAbout a dozen years or so ago, Caterpillar built a huge new engine plant, just down the road here in Seguin TX. Story has it, Caterpillar came to Seguin City council in advance, and told them their plans. Then they asked for no advanced publicity from Seguin, until announcement day. This new plant was gonna be a non-union replacement for a couple of union plants in IL and SC, and Cat didn't want to stir up union problems until the plan was set. They told Seguin, If you about blab this in advance, we'll walk. Well, Seguin kept quiet as instructed, and the plan went through, with all the usual expected tax abatements given.Plant construction began, but the Caterpillar name was conspicuously absent from anywhere on the site. Instead, the plant was described as being a collective of various contractors and suppliers for Caterpillar. Which in fact, it was. Then comes the day, with the big new plant fully operationa!, that Caterpillar comes in and announces, Hey, Yeah it's our plant, and the Caterpillar name boldly goes up on the front. All you contractor folks, welcome aboard, you're now Caterpillar employees. Then, Cat turns and announces they are closing those two union plants immediately, and will be transporting all the heavy manufacturing equipment to Seguin. None of the union workers, just the equipment. And today, the Caterpillar plant sits out there, humming away happily, making engines for the industry and good paying jobs for us. I'd call that a winner.
  • Stuki Moi What Subaru taketh away in costs, dealers will no doubt add right back in adjustments.... Fat chance Subaru will offer a sufficient supply of them.