Canadian Unifor Opens Talks with Detroit Three This Week

Formal contract talks between Unifor and the Detroit Three automakers begin this week, starting with General Motors on Wednesday, followed by formal openings with Ford and Fiat Chrysler Canada on Thursday.

“There will be no deals with any of the companies without commitments from each of them for investments in Canada,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias, who will lead the negotiations.

Unifor is Canada’s largest private sector union, with more than 310,000 members across the country, working in every major sector of the Canadian economy. Dias has an aerospace background at then de Havilland Aircraft, now Bombardier Aerospace.

Press conferences will be held Wednesday and Thursday at the Sheraton Centre in downtown Toronto after the formal openings. Negotiations will continue to the end of the month with all three companies. A pattern bargaining target will be identified in early September. Contracts with the Detroit Three companies expire at 11:59 pm on September 19, putting the two sides in a legal strike/lockout position at that time.

Dias said while the top priority will be new product, workers helped the companies weather the financial storm of 2008-9, and deserve to reap the rewards – just as shareholders and top executives have done over the last few years. Unifor’s bargaining committee chairperson for GM, Greg Moffatt says that the Buick Regal sedan and the Chevrolet Equinox SUV – strong sellers both – will end of their cycle before a redesign a year from now.

GM Canada directly employs ~8,400 employees in Canada (6,500 hourly + 1,900 salaried). GM Canada is responsible for indirectly employing a further 1,350 contract support employees, primarily in Oshawa in its OnStar customer support operations.

During 2015, GM Canada increased its market share to 13.6% and sold 263,335 vehicles through Canada’s largest dealer network of 451 dealerships. Canada is GM’s 5th largest sales market by country. Canada is the 3rd largest Cadillac market in the world. Canada is the 2nd largest GMC market in the world.

Products Produced in GM Canada

  • CAMI Assembly Plant, Ingersoll – Chevrolet Equinox and the GMC Terrain
  • Oshawa Assembly Plant – Chevrolet Equinox (Consolidated Line), Chevrolet Impala, Buick Regal, Cadillac XTS (Flex Line)
  • St. Catharines Propulsion Plant – V6, V8 engines, front wheel drive transmissions

 

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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2 Responses to Canadian Unifor Opens Talks with Detroit Three This Week

  1. Steve Carlisle says:

    There has been a lot of public comment about Unifor auto contract negotiations that open this week, particularly regarding their importance for future investments in Canadian auto manufacturing. Here’s why I am taking a hopeful perspective on these talks.

    First, these negotiations are an important first hurdle that can send a positive message. As we have underscored for the past two years, GM won’t make any future product decisions for Oshawa Assembly until after these negotiations. In Canada, we are extremely proud of the experience, quality and productivity of our workforce as we work together to deliver excellent vehicles for our customers. It’s important for this agreement to reflect that contribution while also ensuring we remain flexible, innovative and internationally competitive for future investments.

    Second, we need to keep in mind that auto investment decisions are never made without examining a wide range of factors. That includes shifting market trends, macro-economic factors, capacity utilization across all our facilities, local costs for utilities, materials, supplier inputs, public policy supports and costs and much more. While labor costs account for about 7 per cent of our total costs, crafting a positive labor agreement can signal that we wish to put our best foot forward and “stay in the game”.

    GM has invested well over $3 billion in our Canadian operations since 2009 – most recently with an $800-million investment in our Ingersoll plant. It is no secret that Canada’s manufacturing sector has been buffeted by strong headwinds. If we are to sail upwind, we need to all be working together. This agreement can signal that.

    Finally, GM is demonstrating its intent to be the auto industry leader in Canada as the global industry faces the largest disruption and technological transformation in more than 100 years. We believe the future of the auto industry will be electric, connected, autonomous and shared. Managing through disruption and change is the new reality – but it’s also an opportunity.

    In June, GM Canada was selected to be a new center for 1,000 GM engineering and software jobs. We will be coding the future of our vehicles and our industry with new partners in Canada’s universities, start-ups, accelerators and others. In Oshawa alone, we now have the Canadian industry’s largest auto technology center and a further 1,100 OnStar customer care positions. This growing base of jobs came from building on our strengths and focusing on positive outcomes. We have shown that we can succeed by working together.

    The weeks and months ahead will be about working together to find solutions. That’s the perspective GM Canada will take into our contract discussions with Unifor.

    Steve Carlisle is President and Managing Director at
    General Motors of Canada

  2. FCA Canada has a long-standing history of working collaboratively with Unifor, which has helped strengthen our position in the Canadian market since 2009. As a result, FCA has been able to invest more than $3 billion in its Canadian facilities and has hired nearly 2,200 hourly employees. As we head into these negotiations, we look forward to continuing that partnership while reaching a labour agreement that will sustain the Company’s competitiveness over the long term.

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