By on September 6, 2016

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

The union representing Detroit Three autoworkers in Canada has chosen General Motors as its target company as contract negotiations get serious.

Agreements reached between Unifor and GM will set the pattern for negotiations with Ford and Fiat Chrysler. However, the potential closure of GM’s Oshawa assembly plant means a strike is almost inevitable if the automaker doesn’t reverse course and offer up a big investment.

Each Detroit Three automaker has an endangered operation north of the border, including Ford’s Windsor engine plant and, to a lesser degree, FCA’s Brampton assembly plant (which builds the company’s rear-drive cars). Oshawa’s position is the most perilous, so it’s no shock Unifor announced it will go after GM for commitments first.

Contracts will all three automakers expire on September 19. The union membership, which numbers 23,050, has already voted overwhelmingly for a strike mandate. Once members ratify an agreement with the target company, bargaining moves to the second and third company.

“Our demand is clear, invest today to build a future for tomorrow,” Unifor president Jerry Dias told Canadian media today.

Recently, Dias called the negotiations the “most important auto contract talks in a generation.” He promises “no deals with any of the companies without commitments from each of them for investments in Canada.”

In late July, the Windsor Star quoted an unnamed GM Canada executive who claims that Oshawa’s Consolidated Line is due to close next year. That assembly line manufactures Chevrolet Equinox crossovers in an overflow capacity. The same executive said the closure of the entire plant is not a “foregone conclusion.”

Oshawa Assembly employs about 2,400 autoworkers building the Buick Regal and Cadillac XTS, in addition to overflow from GM’s CAMI facility in Ingersoll, Ontario. In recent years, Oshawa lost its truck plant as well as the Chevrolet Camaro. Existing models produced in Oshawa could easily be sent elsewhere.

Last week, Unifor released an independent study showing the Detroit Three’s $26 billion economic impact on the Canadian economy.

“Policy makers and the public need to understand what’s at stake here,” Dias said in a statement.

In the lead-up to contract negotiations, GM Canada refused to commit to the Oshawa plant’s survival, though it did announce the province-wide hiring of 700 new engineers. That announcement raised eyebrows, with many believing it was meant to soften a looming blow to the company’s Canadian workforce.

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

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10 Comments on “Unifor Picks GM as Target Company as Clock Ticks Towards Potential Strike...”

  • avatar

    Louie the wrench looks p!$$ed!

    Oh wait, wrong union boss.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Oshawa appears to build about 6% of GM’s volume. Yep, that’ll hurt.

    They should be negotiating terms of exit, rather than terms of staying.

    • 0 avatar

      @SCE to AUX…..”They should be negotiating terms of exit, rather than terms of staying”.

      Yeah. it may just come down to that. However, that would require GM to lay their cards on the table. At this point , there has been zero movement , or any indication that GM is planning to shut Oshawa down somewhere in the 2018-2019 time frame. If ,that is indeed their plan, why go through all the B.S ?..Is it all about “saving face” and consumer backlash ? GM can then lay all the blame on the greedy union ?…Maybe ??

      I’m still shocked that GM was picked as target. As you pointed out, 6 percent is hardly a knock out punch. The Cami plant will still keep churning out the Equinox .I’m not sure what impact St Catherine engine plant, will have on corporate wide production.

      Anyway ….In the past , i’ve usually been pretty good on predicting the outcome of these things. This time i have completely blown it. I guess ,in the next 12 days we will know, one way , or the other.

      • 0 avatar

        As a current employee I am a a little shocked as well that GM is the first target.
        St. Catharines does have the potential to have an impact (more so than Oshawa). We build the v8s for the Silverado and Sierra, as well as transmissions for the equinox and terrain, and V6s for colorado/Cayon, and others. I am personally hoping it doesn’t come to a strike though.

  • avatar

    Since this latest saga started, I have failed to understand how threatening to strike will prevent GM from shutting down this plant. Unifor is basically saying ” If you don’t shut this plant down, we will do it for you.”

    • 0 avatar
      dash riprock

      Think this is an existential fight for the autoworkers union. Either they lock up long term investments or they will see fewer and fewer of their members working and paying dues. Think they have no choice but to go balls to the wall.

      Canada is not Australia, there is a economic case for auto manufacturing here. Honda and Toyota prove that.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    UNIFOR should just live with the knowledge that jobs will go as manufacturing technology improves. This is all and any industry, not just auto manufacturing.

    UNIFOR needs to find ways to help its member gain new employment in other industries rather then whine and cry.

    UNIFOR do something positive for your members instead of expecting all around to jump when you cry.

    UNIFOR, help your members by offering retraining, these guys have paid you lots of money, so now invest it back into the UNIFOR rank and file.

  • avatar

    There’s a time to walk and a time to stay put. Striking will accomplish zero this time around.

  • avatar

    I can’t think of two adversaries who deserve each other more. If Unifor plays their cards right, GM will pull out of Canada and cause Unifor to sabotage themselves with Ford and Fiat. Do any of the usual suicide apologists think targeting GM to set terms for Ford and Fiat was the right thing to do? It’s a very subtle brand of genius at best.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    No problem Unifor. You and the UAW are my extended family’s #2 reason for not buying a NA built domestic car. Of course reason #1 is quality, reliability and retained value.

    There’s plenty of NA-made high quality cars that don’t have your fingerprints on them. We’ll continue to go there.

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