GM Autoworkers Ratify $421 Million Contract; Fiat Chrysler Negotiations Come Next

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Unionized General Motors workers in Canada ratified a new collective agreement yesterday, with the automaker agreeing to invest $421 million ($554 million CAD) into its northern operations.

The deal, which sees full-size pickup final assembly come to Oshawa, was sealed after 64.7 percent of the Unifor members voted to approve it. With this nail-biter of a negotiation done (the last-minute deal averted a looming strike), contract negotiations begin with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

According to Unifor, the vote breakdown was 66.5 percent from production workers and 56.5 percent from skilled trades members. Besides the new product bound for Oshawa, the four-year agreement sees some product re-routed from Mexico to GM’s engine and transmission plant in St. Catharines, Ontario. A Woodstock parts facility will also see upgrades.

“The gains made in this agreement are historic and more than what has been achieved in the past ten years,” said Unifor president Jerry Dias in a statement.

Workers will see a 4-percent wage hike over the life of the contract, a $6,000 signing bonus, and lump sum payments totaling $12,000. Some 700 temporary workers see their positions converted to full-time, with a pension, signing bonus and wage progression.

According to Reuters, Unifor gave up defined-benefit pensions for new hires, while GM pledged to eliminate a $2.3 billion (CDN) pension deficit. GM Canada hailed the new deal, but suggested that future product bound for Canada could depend on government intervention.

“GM Canada is also in discussions with the federal and Ontario governments toward potential support agreements to help optimize the competitiveness of our Canadian operations for the future,” the automaker said in a statement. “Further details on our plans will be shared after completion of our discussions with governments.”

The GM deal places pressure on FCA to invest in its operations, especially the Brampton, Ontario assembly plant. That facility, which builds the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Challenger, has one of the oldest paint shops in the industry.

“In the negotiations with GM, the union set clear objectives which we reached, including our top priority to secure investment and product for our members and the future of the auto industry,” Dias said in a statement. “With Fiat Chrysler and Ford we will accept nothing less.”

Unifor and FCA representatives meet today.

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Sep 26, 2016

    "EV Company Receives Government Subsidy" = GM At first glance, this is the last gasp for Oshawa. This contract, plus future contracts, all depend upon the government to underwrite the high cost of doing business there. But, upon reflection, it appears the government will do *anything* to keep those jobs local - and Unifor knows it. You don't need a union for the government to cave like this, although the market-distorting signing bonuses are a direct outcome of the union's intervention. Good for them, I suppose; no other industry would do that for them with their skill sets (unless they were school teachers).

    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Sep 26, 2016

      Just how high IS the cost of doing business in Canada? The Canadian Dollar is worth 76 cents American, so costs in American dollars are discounted 24%. If American workers are getting $22/hour and Canadian workers are getting C$32, the labor costs are comparable. Other expenses might be comparable as well. If you look at the bigger picture, the European Union trade agreement with the US was a bust, and the Euros are trying especially hard to save a trade agreement with Canada. There's a chance GM exports to Europe through Canada could be advantageous.

  • RRocket RRocket on Sep 26, 2016

    Only 65% voted for the deal? What were the other 35% hoping for? Geez...

    • See 1 previous
    • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Sep 27, 2016

      @Lorenzo I find the split between skilled and unskilled workers interesting. 66.5 % versus 56.5%.

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