By on September 4, 2020


With its members having recently voted to strike if bargaining teams don’t make headway, Canadian autoworkers union Unifor plans to reveal its first target next Tuesday. Contract talks kicked off last month, with Unifor aiming to maintain, at the very least, the current complement of Detroit Three workers north of the border.

With the auto industry in continued retreat in Canada, Unifor knows that the next four years could be the term in which one of the Detroit Three ceases to manufacture vehicles on Canuck soil. What’s left in the country is starting to look threadbare and futureless. Maybe some public cash will sweeten the landscape?

The governments of Canada and the province of Ontario have historically ponied up bushels of cash to retain auto jobs, and things don’t seem to have changed on that front. Unifor’s counting on the taps opening up.

“On Tuesday I will announce the company that I believe will give Unifor the best chance to address our bargaining agenda and our vision for the industry, including job security issues, new product allocations and economic progress for our members” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias in a release.

“We will also continue to push provincial and federal governments to be active participants in support of our efforts to secure our auto industry’s future. A future made in Canada.”

The deal eventually hammered out with Unifor’s initial target will set a course the other two will have to follow. Chances are it won’t be Fiat Chrysler. Whoever it is, there’s a September 21st strike deadline to consider — and last fall’s GM walkout illustrates  that unions aren’t afraid to use the tactic.

Of course, GM and others depend vastly less on Canada for its new rolling stock, diminishing Unifor’s hand at the bargaining table.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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8 Comments on “Detroit Three Strike Target ID’d Tuesday; Unifor Looks to Bring Public Cash Onside...”

  • avatar

    I sure hope the governments learned their lesson from the great recession and won’t shovel any more taxpayer dollars down this bottomless pit for little return. As much as I would hate to see the plants go, if Unifor is intent on pricing themselves out of the market, then it’s inevitable.

  • avatar

    Professor Deane; what does the Union want this year?

    dickie responds:

    MORE !
    NOW !

    and takes a drag on the cigarette.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    We generally agree that a nation must maintain manufacturing capacity. The quick turnaround in converting part of the ‘closed’ GM Oshawa plant to manufacturing pandemic related PPE is an example. Having to rely on overseas manufacturers in an emergency has proven to be foolhardy.

    UNIFOR’s bargaining position is weak. Holding a strike vote is just part of the negotiating process, even though strikes are relatively rare in Ontario. Without a strike vote, the union cannot legally strike or even credibly threaten to do so.

    Government action is indeed required to maintain manufacturing/assembly of motor vehicles by what we still call the D3 in Ontario, under current political and economic conditions.

    Let’s hope for the sake of these workers, their families, their communities,and the Canadian economy that it does continue.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “Government action is indeed required to maintain manufacturing/assembly of motor vehicles by what we still call the D3 in Ontario, under current political and economic conditions.”

      Sure, and those conditions include an intransigent union and mfrs who are already enjoying success building product elsewhere.

      Shoveling more government money into Unifor-related operations only buys a little more time. The die is cast, and the D3 will eventually leave.

      To quote the character Thomas Andrews from “Titanic”: “The pumps buy you time, but minutes only. From this moment, no matter what we do, Titanic will founder.”

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        UNFOR has been the opposite of intransigent. They have accepted numerous concessions in return for promises of investment and/or job security.

        Which is why they launched the suit against GM which made promises about job security in regards to Oshawa.

        If a company wishes to sell cars in Canada, then they should also manufacture cars in Canada. As per the Auto-Pact.

        This is where government intervention is required. It could take the form of tariffs or restrictions on imports.

        Or it should have taken the form suggested by arch-conservative Conrad Black and instead of bailing out Chrysler the Canadian government should have purchased controlling interest in it.

  • avatar

    I can’t see the target being anybody but FCA/Stellantis. There’s the Brampton plant that produces FCA’s muscle cars for bragging purposes, the huge Windsor plant where the Pacifica is made, and where FCA’s reserve assembly capacity is, and another casting plant that makes pistons and other engine and transmission parts.

    Ford has one assembly plant assembling two models and two engine plants, and could probably do without any of them. GM seems to be ready to bail out of Canada at the first opportunity, with one assembly plant (with one model) and an engine plant for truck engines.

    The opportunity for Unifor seems to be the tie-in with PSA and the introduction of French cars. The danger is that a new contract with Stellantis not to Ford’s and GM’s liking could cause one or both to leave Canada altogether.

    But Unifor seems to be sticking with the UAW practice of targeting one of the big three and expecting the others to go along. If they mess this up,they could see the Canadian auto industry take a major hit.

  • avatar

    Good luck, Unifor.
    There is a refinery in Regina, workers represented by Unifor. Unifor at the refinery had a strike mandate, issued 48hr notice. The refinery immediately followed up with a lockout notice.
    In Sask, unions and company typically have to issue 48hr notice before commencing job action (union) or lockout (company). But once a union issues notice, they don;t have to go out. They can play games – rotating one day walkouts etc. Companies have wised up and now more often issue lockout notice then lockout after 48hr.
    That happened in this case.
    Employees received lockout notice after issueing strike notice, 48hr later were locked out. Were out for approx 6 months. On the picket line thru a Sask winter – it gets a bit cold in Sask in winter!
    The main issue was pension – the employees had a full company funded defined benefit pension plan. The company wanted them to start contributing.
    The refinery brought in trailers and replacement workers – the refinery continued to operate for those six months. The union got little public support as few people have company pensions, let alone entirely paid for by the employer.
    In the end, the employees gained little, perhaps going backwards. All they really accomplished was losing six months pay.
    So, it will be interesting to see if Unifor learned anything. Perhaps whatever company they choose to strike will let them go out and stay out.

  • avatar

    Unifor must be asking itself “Where did everyone go?” right about now. GM hasn’t been committed to Canada since the truck plant left in 2009. Sure there’s CAMI and the Engine Plant, but those two plants are on borrowed time as they don’t have any leverage as there products are and can be made elsewhere. Those two plants solely exist to potentially suck money out of taxpayers. There isn’t a compelling reason for GM to continue manufacturing in Canada.

    Ford is in a similar situation in Canada. The property where the Oakville plant sits will more than pay for closing up shop in Canada. Ford may have been better off keeping the St. Thomas plant open for closer access to the Michigan plants and less expensive labour, but I digress.

    FCA Canada is in a different situation. The minivan is only made in Windsor and continues to sell well. Additionally, the Brampton plant makes the 300, Charger, and Challenger that continue to sell well late into their model lives and aren’t made anywhere else.

    FCA Canada is clearly going to be the strike target as GM and Ford undoubtedly are ready to walk away from Canada. Should Unifor pick GM, I see the final result is they will close St. Catharines and the remaining facilities in Oshawa. If Unifor targets Ford, it will likely expedite closure of Oakville.

    It’s an election year in the US and assigning any product to Canada is going to come at a political cost the US manufacturers. Unifor is in no position to bargain and the Canadian taxpayers are tired of handing out money when the Big Three come with hat in hand.

    Jerry Dias should start looking for another job. Get your popcorn ready.

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