With Plants at Stake, Unifor Prepares to Plunge Into Detroit Three Negotiations

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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with plants at stake unifor prepares to plunge into detroit three negotiations

Canadian auto manufacturing has steadily declined over the past several decades, and the future looks cloudy for workers at Detroit Three plants. It’s under this gathering gloom that the union representing these workers, Unifor, enters into contract negotiations with General Motors, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler.

The last round of collective bargaining was rough, but the near-closure of GM’s Oshawa Assembly (where auto production ceased last year) provided Unifor with a grim portent of what could await other underutilized Canuck plants.

Formal contract talks begin August 12th, Unifor said Friday.

“These are significant negotiations at a time when the auto sector needs new investment to rebuild our economy with more Made in Canada manufacturing,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias in a release. “Our union is committed to negotiating a solid agreement that makes progress on wages and working conditions for our members.”

Journos won’t be in attendance for these physically-distanced talks as both sides attempt to avoid the spread of coronavirus.

With nearly 20,000 workers to back, Unifor needs commitment that plants like Ford’s Oakville Assembly and FCA’s Brampton Assembly will soldier on with new vehicles after the current product dries up. And there’s definite fear that they won’t.

Earlier this year, it was reported that Ford plans to ditch the Edge and Lincoln Nautilus, both built in Oakville, Ontario, to provide some room in the center of its crowded utility lineup. Brampton houses the ancient full-size LX-platform cars, two of which are due for a revamp in the near future. The Chrysler 300 is not expected to see a new generation.

Meanwhile, FCA’s Windsor minivan plant remains committed solely to a rapidly shrinking segment.

Unifor, who, in early 2019, boycotted the Mexican-built Chevrolet Blazer, has long been critical of Detroit’s preference for choosing low-cost manufacturing south of the Rio Grande over more expensive Canadian builds. While the new trade pact between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada includes a Mexican wage increase plank aimed at narrowing the cost gap, choosing south over north is still a thriftier option.

Exactly how the coronavirus pandemic will factor into the negotiations — and the thinking of Detroit execs — remains to be seen. Ford recently saw its flow of truck engines from Mexico stemmed on account of local anti-virus measures.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Steph Willems
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  • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Aug 07, 2020

    The 1965 AutoPact meant that a certain amount of auto's had to be made in Canada if a manufacturer wanted to sell in Canada. NAFTA removed such restrictions. Even with the new USMCS/CUSMA rules forcing higher wages for Mexican labour, there still remains a significant cost savings in Mexico. Canada needs to pull their heads out of the USA's ass and realize that "we" need to seek trade deals with similar sized economies like countries in the EU. The USA and China are going to butt heads on many fronts in the next 20 years and being aligned with "3rd parties" is a safe option.

    • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Aug 08, 2020

      Both John Diefenbaker and Pierre Trudeau sought this 'third option'. Diefenbaker believe that the Commonwealth would balance out the USA, but the UK was more interested in joining the EU. Trudeau wanted to link with the EU bought they have a large market that is geographically close and do not need to export across the Atlantic to Canada's small market. More recently we have looked at a TransPacific economic group. But do you really want to 'cosy up' to China? What the Canadian government should have done was instead of loaning money to GM and Chrysler was to buy controlling interest in Chrysler. Then sell shares to Canadians while retaining voting control. Create an auto manufacturer which is controlled/protected/favoured/subsidized by the government. This has worked to various degrees in Germany, Japan, China, Korea and to lesser degrees in France and Italy. It did not work out as well in the UK or Sweden. Canadian Chrysler could then have entered into agreements regarding technology or manufacturing rights with some of the auto manufacturers who did not have a presence in North America.

  • Anomaly149 Anomaly149 on Aug 09, 2020

    I'm not buying Ford ditching Oakville, there's no other plant currently ready to accept two CD4 SUVs, and that's an actually money making market. Now, I wouldn't mind it, but the leak smells like early contract posturing. (What're they gonna do, resurrect Wayne Assembly?) Windsor and Essex, however?

  • Carsofchaos Bike lanes are in use what maybe 10 to 12 hours a day? The other periods of the day they aren't in use whatsoever. A bike can carry one person and a vehicle can carry multiple people. It's very simple math to figure out that a bike lane in no way shape or form will handle more people than cars will.The bigger issue is double parked delivery vehicles. They are often double parked and taking up lanes because there are cars parked on the curb. You combine that with a bike lane and pedestrians Crossing wherever they feel like it and it's a recipe for disaster. I think if we could just go back to two lanes of traffic things would flow much better. I started coming to the city in 2003 before a lot of these bike lanes were implemented and the traffic is definitely much worse now than it was back then. Sadly at this point I don't really think there is a solution but I can guarantee that congestion pricing will not fix this problem.
  • Charles When I lived in Los Angeles I saw a 9-5 a few times and instanly admired the sweeping low slug aerodynamic jet tech influenced lines and all that beautiful glass. The car was very different from what I expected from a Saab even though the 900 Turbo was nice. A casual lady friend had a Saab Sonnet, never drove or rode in it but nonetheless chilled my enthusiasm and I eventually forgot about Saabs. In the following years I have had seven Mercedes's, three or four Jaguars even two Daimlers both the 250 V-8 and the massive and powerful Majestic Major. Daily drivers of a brand new 300ZX 2+2 and Lincolns, plus a few diesel trucks. Having moved to my big farm in central New York, trucks and SUV's are the standard, even though I have a Mercedes S500 in one of my barns. Due to circumstances with my Ford Explorer and needing a second driver I found the 2006 9-5 locally. Very little surface rust, none undercarriage, original owner, garage kept, wife driver and all the original literature and a ton of paid receipts and history. The car just turned 200,000 miles and I love it. Feels new like I'm back in my Nissan 300ZX with a lot more European class and ready power with the awesome turbo. So fun to drive, the smooth power and torque is incredible! Great price paid to justify going through the car and giving her everything she needs, i.e., new tires, battery, all shocks, struts, control arms, timing chain and rust removable to come, plus more. The problem now is I want to restore it and likely put it in my concrete barn and only drive in good weather. As to the writer, Alex Dykes, I take great exception calling the 9-5 Saab "ugly," finding myself looking back at her beauty and uniqueness. Moreover, I get new looks from others not quite recognizing, like the days out west with my more expensive European cars. There are Saabs eclipsing 300K rourinely and one at a million miles and I believe one car with 500K on the original engine. So clearly, this is a keeper, in love already with my SportCombi. I want to be in that elite club.
  • Marky S. I own the same C.C. XSE Hybrid AWD as in this article, but in Barcelona Red with the black roof. I love my car for its size, packaging, and the fact that it offers both AWD and Hybrid technology together. Visibility is impressive, as is its small turning circle. I consider the C.C. more of a "station wagon" by proportion, rather than an “SUV.” It is fun to drive, with zippy response and perky pick-up. It is a pleasant car to drive and ride in. It is not trying to be a “Butch Off-Roader”, or a cosseting “Luxury Cruiser.” Those are not its goals or purpose. The Corolla Cross XSE Hybrid AWD is a wonderful All-Purpose Car (O.K. – “SUV” if you must hear me say it!) with a combination of all the features it has at a reasonable price.
  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.