Report: Unifor Leadership Seeking Friendlier Approach Than UAW

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

report unifor leadership seeking friendlier approach than uaw

Canada’s Unifor is slated to negotiate terms with Stellantis, General Motors, and the Ford Motor Company starting next month. But it appears to be taking a softer approach than what we’ve been seeing from its counterpart in the United States. 

The UAW has been promising to play hardball with automakers in an effort to regain lost ground stemming back to the early 2000s. It’s going into contract negotiations with an adversarial tone and has said it would withhold support of any politician that refused to support its demands. But Unifor seems to be taking up a more cordial tone.

Unifor President Lana Payne appeared at Stellantis’ Brampton Assembly Plant alongside North American COO Mark Stewart for a press event last week. The facility is responsible for the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, and Dodge Challenger until production ends later this year. The site will be retooled to manufacture electrified vehicles and Payne reportedly wanted to take one last look around.

Unifor is also on a three-year turnaround for contract talks, rather than the usual four-year period. This puts it in a unique position to conduct its bargaining in tandem with the UAW and also means it’ll have a chance to renegotiate before Brampton is idled. 

“We actually wanted to get to the bargaining table before the retooling of our plants happens, and to give us a chance to have another kick at the can and make sure that we were getting everything in place that we knew needed to be in place,” Payne was quoted as saying by Automotive News Canada.

This year, Unifor is hoping to see higher wages, improved pensions, and additional investments into Ontario-based automotive plants. 

The factory, situated outside of Toronto, employs 2,400 people and has been rumored to close. While Stellantis leadership has been unwilling to say which models would be replacing the Charger, Challenger, and 300, the company has stated that it will continue to support the factory and the van plant located in Windsor. 

“I’ve given a reassurance … in writing to the province, to the feds as well, that we absolutely are committed [to the] agreements we have with Windsor, with Brampton,” Mr. Stewart said at the event. 

Though it’s likely the Canadian government (and its taxpayers) making the largest commitment. Stellantis and partner LG Energy Solution of South Korea managed to score up to $15 billion Canadian dollars worth of subsidiaries after threatening to scale back its plans to build electric vehicles within the region. At the time, the automaker noted how much money it could get from the United States under the Biden administration's so-called Inflation Reduction Act and use it to bargain a better deal with Ottawa.

Stewart even credited Unifor for helping negotiate the subsidy deal that allowed construction on the battery plant to restart, saying that Stellantis and the union were “finding ways through hurdles together.”

From Automotive News

The event came three weeks before Unifor formally launches contract negotiations with Stellantis, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors, and its chummy atmosphere was in stark contrast with recent tough talk from the United Auto Workers in the United States. UAW President Shawn Fain, tossed aside a decades-old handshake tradition with Detroit Three CEOs last week, saying he’d shake hands with the company executives when they “come to the table with a deal that reflects the needs of the workers who make this industry run.” The stance is consistent with the adversarial tone Fain set this spring when he described bargaining as a “war” against employers who are unwilling to give union members their “fair share.”
Payne told reporters in Brampton that she respects the “great job” the UAW is doing representing its members, but Unifor is a different union and intends to take a different approach.

“Unifor has its own job to do. We have our own members to represent,” suggested Payne. “We have a different situation in Canada. … We’re going to chart our own course in this bargaining, and we’ll chart our own course as the union that we are.”

With the UAW going into negotiations with a more adversarial tone and a general skepticism toward all-electric vehicles that will require less manpower, there may be a golden opportunity for Unifor presenting itself. The Canadian government has already said it sees battery plants as anchor points for new technology that could be roped into its mining operations. 

While Ottawa often frames the above as clean and green, it’s debatable how environmentally sound lithium, nickel, and cobalt sourcing actually is. Still, consolidating as much of the battery supply chain within the nation as possible seems wise if the industry is truly transitioning over to all-electric vehicles. Meanwhile, handing tens of billions of dollars to automakers could backfire horribly if EVs fail. But few Western nations seem to be taking an alternative approach, as most governments seem obsessed with ensuring all-electric vehicles supplant combustion models. 

Either way, Unifor is scheduled to commence negotiations on August 10th, and Canadian job retention via electrification will be a major component.

[Image: Unifor]

Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by subscribing to our newsletter.

Join the conversation
6 of 19 comments
  • FreedMike FreedMike on Jul 25, 2023

    Just curious - is "Payne" this lady's only name, ala "Prince" or "Shakira"?

    • See 3 previous
    • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Jul 25, 2023

      I'll bet she's not as entertaining as Major Payne.

      "You may feel a little pressure..."

  • Redapple2 Redapple2 on Jul 25, 2023

    Dammit. The CFL can only be seen on CBS Sports. Was ESPN. No more Hamilton Ti Cats

  • ToolGuy Here is an interesting graphic, if you're into that sort of thing.
  • ToolGuy Nice website you got there (even the glitches have glitches)
  • Namesakeone Actually, per the IIHS ratings, "Acceptable" is second best, not second worst. The ratings are "Good," "Acceptable," "Marginal" and "Poor."
  • Inside Looking Out "And safety was enhanced generally via new reversing lamps and turn signals fitted as standard equipment."Did not get it, turn signals were optional in 1954?
  • Lorenzo As long as Grenadier is just a name, and it doesn't actually grenade like Chrysler UltraDrive transmissions. Still, how big is the market for grossly overpriced vehicles? A name like INEOS doesn't have the snobbobile cachet yet. The bulk of the auto market is people who need a reliable, economical car to get to work, and they're not going to pay these prices.