Ford Chosen by Unifor as Canadian Bargaining Target

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
ford chosen by unifor as canadian bargaining target

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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6 of 27 comments
  • Chris724 Chris724 on Sep 09, 2020

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

    • See 1 previous
    • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Sep 09, 2020

      @Chris if you believe what you posted then you truly need to learn about the history of Ford Motor Co. Look up Harry Bennett.

  • Whatnext Whatnext on Sep 09, 2020

    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)

    • See 1 previous
    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Sep 12, 2020

      @ect Those plants are non-union, and Unifor has failed to get into them. That's the reason they're not mentioned.

  • FreedMike Race car drivers are all alpha-types. Aggression is part of the deal. I think you see more of that stuff in NASCAR because crashes - the end result of said aggression - are far more survivable than they would be in F1 or IndyCar.
  • Analoggrotto Only allow Tesla drivers to race, we are the epitome of class and brilliance.
  • Wjtinfwb When my kids turned 16 and got their Operators, we spent $400 to send both (twins) to 2 driving schools. One held by the local Sherriff was pretty basic but a good starter on car control and dealing with police officers as they ran the school. Then they went to a full day class in N Atlanta on a racetrack, with the cars supplied by BMW. They learned evasive maneuvers, high speed braking, skid control on a wet skid pad and generally built a lot of confidence behind the wheel. Feeling better about their skills, we looked for cars. My son was adamant he wanted a manual, Halleluiah! Looking at used Civics and Golf's and concerned about reliability and safety, I got discouraged. Then noticed an AutoTrader adv. for a new leftover '16 Ford Focus ST six-speed. 25k MSRP advertised for $17,500. $2500 above my self-imposed limit. I went to look, a brand new car, 16 miles on it, black with just the sunroof. 3 year warranty and ABS, Airbags. One drive and the torquey turbo 2.0 convinced me and I bought it on the spot. 7 years and 66k miles later it still serves my son well with zero issues. My daughter was set on a Subaru, I easily found a year old Crosstrek with all the safety gear and only 3k miles. 21k but gave my wife and I lots of peace of mind. She still wheels the Subaru, loves it and it too has provided 7 years and 58k miles of low cost motoring. Buy what fits your budget but keep in mind total cost over the long haul and the peace of mind a reliable and safe car provides. Your kids are worth it.
  • Irvingklaws Here's something cheaper, non-german, and more intriguing...
  • Wjtinfwb Happy you're loving your Z4. Variety is the spice of life and an off-beat car like the Z4 intrigues me as well. More than anything, your article and pictures have me lusting for the dashboards of a decade ago. Big, round analog gauges. Knobs and buttons to dial up the A/C, Heat or Volume. Not a television screen in sight. Need to back up? Use the mirrors or look over your shoulder. If your Z4 had the six-speed manual, it would be about perfect. Today's electronified BMW's leave me ice cold, as do the new Mercedes and Audi's with their video game interiors. Even a lowly GTI cannot escape the glowing LED dashboard. I'm not a total luddite, Bluetooth streaming for the radio would be nice and I'd agree the cooled seats would be a bonus on a warm day with the top down. But the Atari dashboard is just a bridge too far for me.