By on September 9, 2020

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Unifor has selected the Ford Motor Company as its target for collective bargaining. Once negotiations conclude, the union will be using the terms established with the automaker to lay the groundwork for pattern deals with General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

While the talks have not yet begun, we already know Unifor wants to cement production commitments in Oakville, Ontario, where Ford is rumored to be ending Edge assembly. It would also like to secure deals for FCA plants in Brampton and Windsor. Naturally, the union will also be demanding wage increases  though this is sometimes the most contentious issue. Contract talks from 2016 became stuck in the mud over higher pay until Ford insisted employees remain subject to a 10-year wage grow-in that union members had been split on. It’s unclear if that will remain the case in 2020 but we genuinely haven’t had high hopes for the Union pulling out anything that resembles a major victory.

Despite Unifor President Jerry Dias assuring everyone he’s on top of things, we’ve wondered what could realistically be achieved. Canada seems on the cusp of losing several important facilities with few ways of tempting automakers to stick around. Dias is shaking things up, however. Rather than negotiating the usual four-year contract with the auto industry, Unifor plans to run with a three-year deal that would put it on track to renegotiate on the same cycle as the UAW.

“We’re sick and tired, frankly, of going to bargaining a year following the U.S. contract negotiations and fighting for product. We’d rather negotiate product in 2020 and then go head-on in 2023,” Dias explained to the press.

According to Automotive News, the UAW took little offense to the Canadian union’s change in tactics. “We support our brothers and sisters at Unifor and will not interfere in their contract discussions,” it said in a statement. “However, the real product issue is not between the U.S. and Canada, but instead the offshoring to Mexico, China, and other nations of existing products and new products. Only fair trade and trade enforcement will fix that problem.”

Dias has stated he’s already been discussing securing production agreements in Oakville with Ford, noting that it seemed more receptive than GM was in regard to Oshawa. But it’s going to tough negotiating all around, with Unifor banking on electric vehicles serving as the metaphorical ace up Canada’s sleeve. Dias has already requested Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford sweeten the pot for automakers interested in sticking around and sees the nation as willing to subsidize EVs and their production more heavily than the United States might.

From Automotive News:

[Kristin Dziczek, vice-president of industry, labour and economics at the Center for Automotive Research,] said the federal government’s willingness to dole out incentives is an advantage Canada has over the United States. The Canadian government also might be more willing to incentivize EV production, given its goals on climate change and provincial zero-emission vehicle mandates in Quebec and British Columbia.

But she said that because pure battery-electric vehicles have “among the lowest U.S., Canada or North American content” of all models sold in the market, it could be difficult for the automakers to build them in Canada and still comply with regional content requirements in the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. To do so would likely require automakers to either make major investments throughout the supply chain to support production or to be willing to pay tariffs.

“Whereas if you make an EV in the U.S. and sell it primarily in the U.S., you could comply with USMCA or not,” Dziczek said.

While the industry certainly talks a lot about new-energy vehicles, it’s unclear how seriously Detroit actually plans on pursuing them. FCA has shown minimal interest in EVs and had the late, great Sergio Marchionne saying he was quite skeptical of an electric takeover just a few years ago. Now things look a little different, with most established automakers making a run on battery-powered cars. But production is going to be extremely limited until customer demand improves. Unifor’s leadership seems to think it will and has made it an important aspect of its upcoming negotiations.

“Everything is on the table,” Dias said. “But there’s no question we’re spending a lot of time talking about electric vehicles.”

Unifor’s contracts with the Big 3 expire on September 21st and will impact around Canadian 17,000 workers. When asked for comment, Ford of Canada said it’s looking forward to reaching a collective agreement ahead of the deadline and noted its long history of collaborating with unions. But it noted that we were living in a time of “economic uncertainties” and would like employees to keep that in mind as everyone strives to maintain jobs as negotiations continue.

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

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27 Comments on “Ford Chosen by Unifor as Canadian Bargaining Target...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “pure battery-electric vehicles have “among the lowest U.S., Canada or North American content” of all models sold in the market”

    Not for Tesla, but perhaps for everyone else.

    Sounds like Unifor isn’t trying to get as much out of Ford/GM/FCA as they are the Canadian people, because they know those lemons have already been squeezed. Pay up!

    • 0 avatar
      Rick Astley

      Your implied argument about squeezing falls on its face when you take into consideration the aggressive subsidies that Tesla demands in order to ruin, pardon, “choose” a new city for which to violate workplace safety laws in.

      Tesla may have high “American content” (assuming we entirely ignore the matter of battery materials and recycling, which, lets be honest here and just say they will be offshored somewhere without an EPA), but it’s squeezing the American people’s chicken good long and hard to do so. Wait, lemons, it squeezes Americas lemons. THEN destroys the wholesome American city it’s dropped trow in.

      Yes, ultimate American capitalistic pride literally squirting out of every Tesla onto American roadways.

      • 0 avatar

        You can’t just drop a turd like this in the comments and not clean up after yourself. What are some facts to back up your eloquent effluent?

      • 0 avatar

        “for which to violate workplace safety laws in.”

        You sound like a union guy. Are you a lawyer?

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        “…the aggressive subsidies that Tesla demands”

        I don’t advocate corporate welfare by any government entity for any corporation.

        And it’s your elected officials who love to give it, because of jobs and re-election.

        As for your allegation that Tesla fosters an unsafe work environment, that’s what OSHA is for. Every mfr of anything has to deal with safety issues. Or do you single out Tesla because you know they get away with stuff and everybody but you turns a blind eye?

  • avatar

    I hope I’m wrong, but this probably the end of vehicle manufacturing in Canada for Ford. This union is adversarial, hostile, militant, and corrupt.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Evidence please.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The Canadian Auto Workers made a major error when they broke away from the UAW and formed their own union in 1985. At that time the Canada-USA Auto Pact was still in force, NAFTA had not been negotiated.

    Manufacturing costs were actually lower in Canada than the USA at that point due to lower electrical costs, universal healthcare (meaning that the employer did not have to pay healthcare benefits for workers, their families and retirees), and currency exchange rates.

    Breaking away from the UAW however meant that Canadian plants were competing with US plants for production/jobs.

    Ford from all reports has not announced/planned any new product for Oakville. Under current circumstances it is probable that UNIFOR will enter into ‘concession bargaining’ meaning that they will bow to Ford’s requests/proposals/demands in return for promises of a new product and some job security.

    • 0 avatar

      Not sure why Canada has lost their cost advantage?
      Currency is weak. Healthcare setup hasn’t changed.
      IIRC the quality ethic up there was pretty decent also.
      Is it the second tier labor that gives the US a plus?

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        1) We sell our electricity to New York State for less than we charge domestic users.
        2) Our property taxes are higher.
        3) The D3 in the USA largely divested themselves of healthcare costs for retirees, and for some workers. So Canadian universal healthcare is no longer a major cost savings for the D3.
        4) Our cost of living is higher (housing, food, fuel) so wage requests are sometimes higher.

        • 0 avatar

          Arthur. my general experience has been that property taxes are typically higher in the US than in Canada. And I’m certainly paying significantly more for groceries here in Virginia than I paid in Ontario.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Canadian food prices are on average just over 25% higher than in the USA. Much more in the North. I have included a link. This is partially due to a smaller market, taxation on food, higher distribution costs and the existence of ‘marketing boards’ which ensure a set price to farmers but restricts production. This is meant to protect smaller and family style farming operations. Also Canada bans steroids, growth hormones and antibiotics which are allowed for use in the USA.

            Property values are often higher in Ontario than in the USA. For instance the average price for a detached home in the Toronto area is over $1 million. Residential property tax rates in Ontario run from .615% to 1.7% of the value. Commercial rates are generally 2.5 times higher. I have included 2 other links.


          • 0 avatar

            My experience of the 2 countries is that I’m certainly paying more for most grocery items (dairy is an exception) than I did in Toronto. Restaurant meals are also more expensive here. Beer and wine is less expensive, if you know where to shop for it. In a supermarket, it’s quite comparable to LCBO or Beer Store prices, at least for quality stuff.
            I looked at your link, with respect it’s not very useful – it compares a very limited range of products (only 22 items) between 2 stores, and excludes many categories of foods (including meat and fish) that would be the costliest part of a consumer’s shopping.

            When we moved to Atlanta in the ’90s, the house we bought there was cheaper than the house we sold in Ontario, but the property tax was much higher in absolute $, let alone as a percentage of market value.

            Same this time. Muy home in Virginia cost about 2/3 (exchange adjusted) of the price I got for my home in Toronto, but the property tax here is more than twice as much as I paid in Toronto.

            Talking friends who live in the Northeast or Midwest, I find the situation to be similar or worse.

            In addition, local governments in many states (including both GA and VA) levy taxes on vehicles and other significant items of personal property, which I haven’t seen in Canada. Here, the rate is 5.33% of “assessed value” – which in my case is about 10% higher than what I actually paid.

            I can only speak to my own experience, of course.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Perhaps you’re frequenting very high end establishments?

            Here are links 2 articles from reputable sources The Globe & Mail and the Fraser Institute which also corroborate higher grocery prices in Canada.

            We have even had political leaders campaign on this issue. Promising to eliminate the marketing boards or reduce quotas in order to reduce Canadian grocery prices or to allow for the import of American products such as American milk or bacon.



            As to property taxes it is largely dependent upon your municipality. For example in Windsor Ontario the property tax on a $500k house would be $9k annually.

  • avatar

    If anyone is interested and has 80 minutes to spare, the National Film Board of Canada made a fly-on-the-wall documentary of the 1985 autoworkers negotiations which gave rise to the UAW/CAW split. It’s a fascinating watch…

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Highly recommended. Although sociologically dated as it depicts a group of Caucasian males negotiating while the only female answers phones and brings coffee. The language used is ‘realistic’

      For those who have never been involved in negotiations or have preconceived notions of how a union operates, this will provide you with a great deal of insight into the pressures and process.

  • avatar

    Unions = implied threat of violence. And we have seen lately what the left is capable of.

  • avatar

    Whistling past the graveyard. I’m afraid auto manufacturing will wind down in Canada in the near future (after we gave them billions in 2008)

    • 0 avatar

      As the Zen Master famously said, “we’ll see”. GM. of course, has lost a lot of market share over the past several decades, so needs to shrink its manufacturing footprint. I haven’t seen Ford’s share data for a few years, but it was also shrinking during the early-mid 2010s, iirc.

      Meanwhile, Honda and Toyota continue have substantial assembly plants in Ontario. Which we never hear about, perhaps because nothing is changing there.

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