Union members have ratified contract proposals between the United Auto Workers (UAW) labor union and Big Three Detroit automakers (GM, Ford, and Stellantis), signaling historic gains for workers. Interestingly, the latest UAW contract ratification coincides with contract ratification between the Big Three and Unifor, the latter of which represents autoworkers in Canada. Now, labor experts are examining the deals on both sides of the border to see which union came out ahead.
In a recent report, Automotive News Canada talked to several labor experts who weighed in on the latest contracts, including Barry Eidlin, an associate professor of sociology at McGill University in Montreal. Eidlin gives the bigger win to the UAW. One of the key differences is with regard to temp workers, with the U.S. contract converting temps to full-time workers after about nine months, increasing pay by as much as 150 percent. Meanwhile, wage increases for the lowest-paid workers in the new Unifor deal range as high as 75 percent.
However, Eidlin points out that the U.S. union was negotiating from a point that was well behind that of Unifor, saying that the UAW was “on a whole different level” when it came to concessions. Associate professor of labour relations at Laval University in Quebec City, Mathieu Dupuis, agreed, saying that while both unions provided significant gains for temp workers, temps were far more prevalent in the U.S. than in Canada.
In addition, Unifor did not need to negotiate to end wage tiers, as they simply did not exist as they did for UAW workers in the U.S. Dupuis added that the three-year wage progression secured in the U.S. was a better deal for workers than the four-year progression for Unifor members.
Retirement, however, was a point in favor of Unifor, with union members in Canada receiving a defined benefit plan by 2025, as compared to the improved defined contribution plan for union members in the U.S.
Wage increases were another point of departure, with a 15-percent increase for Unifor members and a 25-percent increase for union members in the U.S. However, when factoring in cost of living allowances and the deal terms, Unifor members will enjoy a slightly larger annual boost than UAW members.
In a broader sense, experts say that both the UAW and Unifor secured deals that were significantly better than the contracts secured in the past few decades. However, the momentum gained by the labor movement in the U.S. is seen as more transformative, and could result in further gains for workers going forward.