BREAKING: GM Canada, Unifor Reach Tentative Deal, Avoid Strike; Oshawa Plant Saved

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

After contract negotiations went right down to the midnight deadline, GM Canada and autoworkers union Unifor reached a tentative deal last night, averting a looming strike at Canadian GM plants.

Bargaining teams from the automaker and Unifor, which represents Detroit Three workers in Canada, reached what union boss Jerry Dias called “a framework for a tentative agreement.” Not only does the deal avert a shutdown at three Ontario GM facilities, it saves the threatened century-old Oshawa assembly plant.

No jobs will be lost, and a new (but unnamed) product will go into production in Oshawa.

“Did we achieve our objective? I would say to you that the answer is yes,” said Dias, adding that the agreement was unanimously supported by both sides.

The goal of this round of contract talks was to secure investment and new product from all three automakers. With GM as its target company, Unifor sought the salvation of the Oshawa plant and increased product for its St. Catharines engine and transmission plant.

It seems that GM Canada handed over both. Details are scarce, as Dias wanted to flesh out the finer points with his members, but he did say that Oshawa will become the first North American GM assembly plant capable of producing both cars and trucks. A new product is on the way, he added.

In a statement, GM Canada said the agreement “will enable significant new product, technology and process investments at GM’s Oshawa, St. Catharines and Woodstock facilities, placing those operations at the forefront of advanced manufacturing flexibility, innovation and environmental sustainability.”

No jobs will be lost at Oshawa, and temporary workers at all GM Canada facilities — about 700 in all — will be converted to full time. Existing members didn’t concede a thing to reach the deal, Dias said. The tentative deal, which must still be ratified by all members, contains pay increases for employees, seemingly across the board.

“This agreement provides increases for our members, it provides — most importantly — job security in an industry that has been lacking security for years,” said Dias, adding that there was still “some things” that both bargaining committees needed to tie down.

In a reversal of recent trends, the St. Catharines plant will see the addition of product once allocated to Mexico.

What product will come to Oshawa? Currently, the only product leaving the plant is the Buick Regal, Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac XTS. Overflow Chevrolet Equinox production from GM’s CAMI plant is handled by Oshawa’s Consolidated Line, but that will end as the line is scrapped and Chevrolet downsizes the model.

Dias’ phrasing — “cars and trucks” — leaves the door open for a truck, SUV or crossover model to join the plant. After the Consolidated Line is mothballed in 2017, the plant’s Flex Line will continue operations until the product switchover is completed. Oshawa lost its GM truck plant in 2009.

Unifor members at all three GM Canada facilities will meet to ratify the agreement this Sunday. As for its bargaining dates with Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Dias said the nature of the GM agreement “is going to help us in some respects and cause grief in other cases.”

[Image: OFL Communications Department (Flickr) [ CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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