Unifor Head Says Labor Board Ruling Won't Stop a Future Strike

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Ontario Labor Relations Board Chairman Bernard Fishbein recently ruled that Unifor’s actions over the winter were illegal under the province’s Labor Relations Act, stipulating that the union must “cease and desist from engaging in, authorizing or counseling unlawful strikes or engaging in any act that is likely to cause employees at the Inteva, Lear or GM plant (or any other supplier of the GM plant) or any employees having notice of this decision to engage in any unlawful strike.”

However, Unifor President Jerry Dias says the board’s finding that the union engaged in unlawful strikes against General Motors and its suppliers will not stop its workers from walking off the job in the future.

Officially, Unifor has complied by not conducting any strike action since early February. But Dias wants to make it clear that the demonstrations that began last November to keep Oshawa Assembly running would not be stopped by the government, according to Automotive News.

“This is an issue that will be settled at the bargaining table, not in the courtroom,” Dias said. “So if anybody thinks I’m intimidated by it, I’m not. If I think about the number of injunctions I’ve had since last year, I could wallpaper an entire room with it.”

From Automotive News:

Unifor’s actions have raised the ire of General Motors Canada, which has said the automaker’s decision is final and has urged the union to work with it to find soon-to-be displaced workers new jobs. GM Canada has taken to social media to respond to the union’s claims and has said many of Unifor’s talking points are misleading or false, including the notion that Oshawa jobs are moving to Mexico.

GM intends to end production at Oshawa as part of a larger restructuring plan. The factory, which employs about 2,600 unionized workers, builds the Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impala sedans. It also does final assembly on previous-generation Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup bodies shipped from the United States.

Currently, Unifor seems content to hold public rallies operating outside the realm of a traditional strike. But its leadership has repeatedly said that striking will be a part of its collective bargaining strategy against GM. Still, there has yet to be a general strike and recent reports from Reuters make it seem as if the union lacks support. Unifor represents 2,600 GM workers in Oshawa and 1,800 workers at plants supplying its operations. That leaves an additional 1,500 workers without union backing that aren’t particularly interested in seeing strikes.

“We’re working in the GM plant, but we’re not GM,” said Sheri Steel, a forklift driver at CEVA Logistics. “Whenever GM shuts down, we do too. We get sent home and we lose pay.”

[Image: BobNoah/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 19 comments
  • Jeff S Jeff S on Mar 15, 2019

    Agree as well.

  • Scott Scott on Mar 15, 2019

    The Canadian plants at least are no longer like the examples given above, they are much more flexible in their operation. Also almost everything I hear is that Dias not only doesn’t have a lot of support in our plant for his actions (yes there are a few radicals who think he is going about it the right way, but they are in the minority), I have also heard that he doesn’t even have the support of the majority of the Oshawa workers, they want him to be negotiating for their exit, as they don’t believe thatGM is going to change their minds either. Most0f us feel that if it was just Oshawa than it might have been a fight worth fighting, but with the US plants on the line too, the chance of winning is non-existent. All he is doing is putting over 4000 other GM jobs at risk to try and save the 2600 in Oshawa. I guess I am saying to not paint all GM workers ( or even the majority) with the same brush. Oh, and the management that wanted to transfer to our plant from Oshawa is mostly already here, so not likely they are going to turn around and go back to Oshawa, it isn’t going to stay open, time to try for the best deal he can for the workers affected by it, instead of wasting our dues on attacking the company that is paying us (and through us the Union).

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