Canadian labor union Unifor has decided that it will enter discussions with Ford Motor Company first in its upcoming contract negotiations with the Detroit Big Three.
Many expected Ford to be the initial target of the Unifor negotiations, as the automaker is rumored to be considering the closure of its Oakville Assembly plant in the Greater Toronto Area. In a statement, Unifor president Jerry Dias said Oakville Assembly employees “deserve the right to determine their own fate.”
Unifor represents 6,300 Ford workers in Canada, making it the second-largest Unifor auto employer behind Fiat Chrysler, which has 9,000 unionized workers in the country. General Motors is the smallest at 4,100 workers.
The union is looking to secure future product at vehicle assembly plants to help provide members with more job security and is also seeking increases pay/bonuses. Unifor members voted overwhelmingly in support of strike action last month, with the strike deadline set for September 21st at 11:59 p.m. ET. Local media asked Dias if he was confident the union would be able to reach an agreement with Ford before enacting a strike, to which he replied “we’ll see.”
While FCA and Ford are in for a potentially difficult and drawn out contract negotiation process with Unifor, GM may be able to get through the pattern bargaining process relatively easily. The automaker already shut down its Oshawa Assembly plant in Ontario last year and its only other vehicle plant, CAMI in Ingersoll, runs on a separate work contract that does not expire until next year. The union will still be looking to secure long-term commitments for the St. Catharines Propulsion plant and an extension of the new parts manufacturing operation at Oshawa Assembly, but those are small, lower-cost operations compared to Ford’s Oakville Assembly plant, for example.