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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