Unifor Picks GM as Target Company as Clock Ticks Towards Potential Strike

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
unifor picks gm as target company as clock ticks towards potential strike

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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  • ToddAtlasF1 ToddAtlasF1 on Sep 06, 2016

    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.

  • Dave M. Dave M. on Sep 07, 2016

    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.

  • Max So GM will be making TESLAS in the future. YEA They really shouldn’t be taking cues from Elon musk. Tesla is just about to be over.
  • Malcolm It's not that commenters attack Tesla, musk has brought it on the company. The delivery of the first semi was half loaded in 70 degree weather hauling potato chips for frito lay. No company underutilizes their loads like this. Musk shouted at the world "look at us". Freightliners e-cascads has been delivering loads for 6-8 months before Tesla delivered one semi. What commenters are asking "What's the actual usable range when in say Leadville when its blowing snow and -20F outside with a full trailer?
  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.