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]
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