Unifor’s narrow vote of support for Ford contract shows challenges ahead: experts

The Canadian Press   

Business Operations Leadership People and Skills Automotive

Photo: Unifor.

TORONTO – The narrow vote of support by Unifor members for the proposed contract with Ford Motor Co. has experts saying that reaching deals with General Motors and Stellantis could prove more challenging.

Unifor members at Ford voted 54 per cent in favour of a new three-year collective agreement over the weekend, a sharp contrast to the 81 per cent support their last contract received.

The union has said the deal will set the pattern for contract talks at GM and Stellantis, but Steven Tufts, a labour expert at York University, said the relatively low support raises the question of whether workers will accept the template.

“The wild card here is will GM and Stellantis workers, will they ratify an agreement that’s based on the Ford pattern, or will they want more, given their companies are bigger and more profitable?”


The Ford deal already does mark notable gains for the union, including a 20 per cent base wage gain for production workers over the contract, a move back to defined benefit contributions for pensions, and electric vehicle-related commitments, but it comes amid rising cost of living pressures.

“No one is saying that significant gains weren’t made, but those significant gains were made at a time when workers’ expectations have increased, and in a period of growing inflation,” said Tufts.

It also comes as autoworkers in the U.S. push for much more, including at least 30 per cent wage gains, which will also have affected the Ford vote, said McMaster University associate professor Stephanie Ross.

“Even though the context of U.S. autoworkers is very different, their ambition and more militant approach has affected Canadian autoworkers’ sense of what they could or should be doing,” she said by email.

Autoworker negotiations in Canada have long followed the convention that the first contract sets the terms for the other two among the Detroit Three, but the voting results mean that might not happen.

“Extending the pattern in Canada may be tougher than anticipated, especially if workers are divided over this deal,” said Ross.

In announcing the deal, Unifor hailed the results as the highest wage increases in the history of Canadian auto bargaining that met all the key priorities of the union.

The contract also includes $10,000 productivity and quality bonuses for full-time employees and $4,000 for part-timers, the reactivation of a cost of living allowance that helps with inflation, increases in health benefits, and the addition of two new paid holidays.


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