The union representing tens of thousands of auto workers in Canada says talks are moving forward between Ford and its bargaining committee, but the two sides remain far apart.
The contract between Ford and Unifor members will expire at 11:59 p.m. Monday. If an agreement is not reached, more than 5,000 people will be on legal strike.
Those members would join the 13,000 autoworkers who went on strike after the United Auto Workers (UAW) union failed to reach an agreement with the Detroit Three last week.
Unifor officials are expected to provide an update on their negotiations Monday afternoon.
“As the deadline approaches, Unifor members at Ford Motor Company are advised to be prepared for all scenarios, including a strike,” Unifor National President Lana Payne wrote in an update to members. .
“All Unifor members must report to their regularly scheduled shift, unless otherwise directed by union officials.”
The union has expanded its contracts covering 14,000 auto workers employed by Stellantis (Chrysler’s parent company) and General Motors while continuing to negotiate with Ford.
Unifor seeks an agreement that improves pensions, wages, supports the transition to electric vehicles and secures additional investments with Ford. It will use that agreement as a model for negotiations with Stellantis and General Motors.
In a statement Monday afternoon, Rosemarie Pao, Ford Canada senior communications manager, said the company was “working hard at the negotiating table with Unifor to create a plan that brings our employees, our business, our customers and our communities into the future.
“As Lana Payne said in her webcast last week, these discussions are best left at the negotiating table.”
Parts manufacturers brace for impact
In a historic move, the UAW is targeting all three companies during its negotiations and as of midnight Thursday has members on strike at plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri that produce the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler and Chevrolet Colorado.
UAW President Shawn Fain led a rally in Detroit on Friday that included Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Fain is calling for a 40 percent pay increase for workers over a four-year agreement and the elimination of tiered wages that cause recently hired employees to start at lower wages than workers hired before 2007.
That strike is expected to have an impact on Canadian companies that make parts for those vehicles.
“Today they are definitely adjusting their production schedules for this week,” said Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association.
“As it grows, or rotates, if it drags on, we’ll see companies with lines that support those businesses outside of those lines.”
Volpe said companies have modeled in planning scenarios the possibility of a strike in Canada.
“We have a good tradition here of not having any work stoppages or, if we do, a short work stoppage.”
In an update to members last Thursday, Unifor said they rejected two offers from Ford.
“Ford has made minimal improvements in pensions,” said Shane Wark, assistant to national officials at Unifor.
“In fact, the movement was so insignificant that ERC [Unifor’s bargaining committee responsible for pensions] “He flatly rejected his proposal the moment it was received.”
The company has also filed “aggressive” demands over wages and pay net improvements, representatives said.
Former national union leader on possible strike
Former Canadian Auto Workers national president Ken Lewenza Sr. said Unifor’s priorities in these negotiations are a necessary response to concessions it accepted during the 2008 financial crisis, when Chrysler and General Motors filed for bankruptcy.
“The difference is that the companies are very profitable, which gives us the ability to maximize our bargaining power,” Lewenza said.
“You want to extract everything you can because you may never have this economic opportunity again.”
LOOK | Ken Lewenza Sr. explains what he thinks will happen if there is no contract at midnight
The UAW and Unifor have not been in a position to simultaneously strike automakers for decades. Unifor held a summit with the UAW earlier this year in Windsor to discuss bargaining and issued a letter of solidarity when UAW members went on strike last week.
Lewenza said he believes Unifor and the UAW will need to focus on promoting each other’s goals.
“Frankly, I don’t think it makes much sense for us to go on strike and shut down plants that could potentially collapse on their own over the next week or two weeks,” Lewenza said.
Auto Workers in Numbers
According to Unifor, there are 19,690 members working in the Detroit Three, including:
- 5,680 Ford members with 3,400 employees in Oakville, Ontario, and 1,900 in Windsor, Ontario.
- 5,780 General Motors members and 3,100 work in Oshawa, Ontario. and 1,100 in St. Catharines, Ontario.
- 8,230 Stellantis members with 4,500 employees in Windsor and 3,200 people in Brampton, Ontario.
The previous deal was negotiated in 2020. Unifor has said the auto industry employs 462,000 people when including direct and indirect jobs.
Hear an automotive analyst discuss the UAW strike and Unifor’s negotiations with the Detroit Three
windsor morning7:21Automatic strike