Five things to know about the Unifor, GM, contract negotiations

The union Dias targeted GM to use an agreement as a model going into talks with Ford and Fiat Chrysler.

September 19, 2016   by CP Staff

TORONTO — Unifor, the union representing Canadian auto workers, has been locked in tough negotiations with General Motors as it tries to secure a new collective bargaining agreement.

Here are five things to know about the talks:

Why GM?

Unifor, which represents about 23,000 auto workers, chose GM as its target company in negotiations. Union president Jerry Dias said he knew discussions with the automaker would be difficult but he wanted to tackle that head on. Dias said any agreement struck with GM would serve as a model going into talks with Ford and Fiat Chrysler.

What’s at stake?

The fate of GM’s plant in Oshawa, Ont., could hang in the balance. The facility operates two assembly lines – a consolidated line that produces the Chevrolet Equinox, and a flex line that makes the Chevrolet Impala, the Buick Regal and the Cadillac XTS. The consolidated line was originally scheduled for closure in 2005, but that was extended until next year. The flex line has no vehicles lined up past 2019. The union has said it won’t agree to any contract that doesn’t offer further work on those lines. GM has said it won’t make any promises on investing in its Canadian operations or allocating new products to its Oshawa plant until after a deal is ratified.


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How important is the GM plant to Oshawa, Ont.?

It’s huge. The plant’s roots in the city date back more than a century. The site assembled carriages before it got into the motor vehicle business. GM says it employs more than 4,800 people at the facility. Just over half of them are unionized. It is Oshawa’s largest employer.

Where are the other battlegrounds in the dispute?

The automaker has 1,400 unionized employees in St. Catharines, Ont., and another 100 in Woodstock, Ont. There is also a GM plant in Ingersoll, but workers there aren’t included in this round of negotiations.

Who wants what?

In addition to securing more work and further investment in Canadian operations, the union is looking for wage increases and retirement incentives. GM has been more tight-lipped, saying it wants to reach a “mutually beneficial and competitive new agreement.”

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