By on October 14, 2020

Canada’s preferred choice in unions, Unifor, warned that contract negotiations with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles were progressing slower than anticipated over the weekend. By Wednesday, news of a strike had begun brewing over social media. Local 444 was issuing FCA-WAP bargaining updates on Twitter and Facebook that included marching orders in the event that the day’s discussions didn’t end in a handshake.

“To ensure we are prepared for a strike, or strike coordinators have been working to finalize the details needed in order to begin, if and when necessary,” the union wrote to members. “If a tentative agreement is reached by 11:59pm October 14th, without an extension in place, then Local 444 along with brothers and sisters across the country at all FCA facilities will be on strike. As the talks continue late into the night, any updates will be posted to our social media pages and web page.”

That scenario is looking increasingly likely, especially as Unifor has explained there was little progress to report all afternoon. It also opened this week suggesting contract talks were “not quite where we feel [they] should be with this limited amount of time left on the clock.”

Unifor wants to pattern its deal with FCA after the deal it reached with Ford Motor Co. in September. That arrangement involves some sizable commitments to existing facilities (with a twist). It also gets a little more liberal with raises, bonuses and provides an easier pathway toward both. Fiat Chrysler is allegedly holding things up nearly across the board. The union told us that the automaker hasn’t been willing to budge on wages or health care benefits (which I thought Canadians got through the government) and lacks “firm commitments on facility investments and product allocations.”

That’s an important issue for Unifor, most notably at FCA’s ailing Windsor plant responsible for minivan production. The union wants the site to see some fresh metal inject as family vans continue losing market share. Canada is not eager to lose the existing facilities and would like to see additional investments, especially for EV programs it seems happy to spend tax dollars on. It wouldn’t be the first time the fate of a Canadian auto plant was decided by how much the government could sweeten the deal.

The probable strike would suspend production of the Chrysler Pacifica and Voyager in Windsor. Meanwhile, Brampton would be pressing pause on the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, and Dodger Charger. FCA’s casting plant in Toronto would also need to be shut down, possibly impacting other facilities in its supply chain.

[Update 10/15/2020: Unifor has reported it reached a tentative agreement for 9,000 Canadian FCA workers at the very last minute. It declined to go into specifics prior to voting but stated that the arrangement would be patterned after the Ford deal. Virtual ratification meetings and voting begin on Sunday.]

[Image: BobNoah/Shutterstock]

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20 Comments on “Unifor Prepares to Strike After FCA Negotiations Go Sideways [UPDATED]...”

  • avatar

    “That arrangement involves some sizable commitments to existing facilities (with a twist). It also gets a little more liberal with raises, bonuses and provides an easier pathway toward both.”

    Talking themselves right out of a job.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Hung out with Jerry Dias at a little Italian restaurant near Markham and Eglinton in the early 80’s after hockey. He talked sense then. Now he must realize that he has brought a knife to face an opponent with a nuclear weapon.

    Without a great deal of government support FCA will not commit new product to Canada. If UNIFOR tries to play hardball, they will alienate many and lose that government support.

    Yes, corporate promises of maintaining jobs are often meaningless. Ask the Oshawa GM workers. And they will also confirm that operating efficiently and with high quality does not save jobs. What does is money. And in this case once again government funds are required to save jobs.

    • 0 avatar

      Jerry is playing chicken and I hope he flinches. FCA is no longer “FCA”, its now effectively controlled by PSA who already has a manufacturing presence in South America and China. Jerry knows its too expensive to move LX and probably the minivans out of Canada, but if he irritates them too much all future product will be slated for Mexico and possibly South America or China. Even if your government comes up with some cash (it shouldn’t IMO), if the writing isn’t on the wall already it will be after this. My guess is though Jerry is close the retirement and if he gets a moderate win he gets to go out on top, no matter if he is helping to steer into the iceberg or not.

      • 0 avatar

        China is out for auto manufacturing thanks to US tariffs. But South America is very real. Chevy is making the Silverado 1500 in Mexico now, and Toyota is moving the Tacoma to Mexico as well. All of the above will be leverage for FCA in any negotiation. Unifor doesn’t have any leverage of their own. This could only end one way in the long term.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Corporate welfare has become a way of life for governments, and no politician wants to be branded as “the one who lost jobs”.

    Maybe Canada should just set aside an annuity that props up the industry forever, because Unifor will certainly return with its hand out next time, too.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Both the federal government and UNIFOR threatened lawsuits against GM when they closed down Oshawa alleging that GM reneged on promises made when negotiating their ‘bail out’.

    I agree 100% with what Conrad Black, previously Lord Black of Crossharbour and recipient of a presidential pardon from Trump, wrote years ago regarding Chrysler. Rather than participating in a bail out the Canadian government should have just bought it. Then they would control an auto manufacturer and would no longer have to worry about bailing out Ford and GM. Furthermore they could give Chrysler ‘preferential status’ in the event of a trade/tariff war.

    The German, French, Italian, Indian, Chinese and Japanese governments all understand the importance of maintaining a national auto manufacturer/manufacturing industry.

    The American and Canadian governments keep bailing out privately owned auto manufacturers. Why not instead at least ‘control’ one through shares/ownership?

    • 0 avatar

      So there isn’t a repeat of British Leyland?

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Responsibility without authority is indeed a bad situation.

        The British auto industry was a mess even prior to BL. Lucas worked its black magic prior to BL. Hence the intervention. Shoddy manufacturing. Antiquated facilities. And epically bad workplace culture due to the class system that was still endemic in British society at the time.

        Thankfully the class system in Britain has eroded considerably this century. No longer are people pigeonholed in jobs/occupations due to their accents.

        No longer can you tell someone’s social/economic status by the hat that they wear.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Bailouts and corporate welfare are a function of how politicized the auto industry has become, and it dis-incentivizes mfrs to run a leaner, smarter operation.

      I don’t recognize the “importance of a national auto manufacturer/manufacturing industry”, except as a jobs program underwritten by the government. And it is blatantly unfair to funnel tax dollars toward auto mfg while other less glamorous industries enjoy no such handouts.

      But this slices the argument too finely. I don’t think there is a meaningful difference between the US/Canadian approach and the Eurocrats. Now, instead of bailouts, we’re providing the money up front in the form of corporate welfare – feeding extra coal into the boiler *before* the train stops, instead of after it’s gone off the rails.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        The automotive manufacturing industry has so many important spinoffs. Besides the R&D metallurgy, robotics, and otehr applicable engineering functions it transfers to other manufacturing sectors, supports a massive number of spinoff jobs and perhaps for some nations most importantly transfers directly to the design and manufacture of military equipment.

  • avatar

    “Brampton would be pressing pause on the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, and Dodger Charger.”
    Please awaken the copy editor, gents. This is a rare blemish on your normally excellent publishing.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised that the threat of strike worked so quickly. FCA being sued by GM may have been a contributor. Minivans and muscle cars will keep getting built for now.

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