Unifor picks General Motors for pattern auto deal
Detroit Three contracts expire Sept. 19; if no deal, union could call a strike.
DETROIT — Unifor, the Canadian auto workers’ union has picked General Motors Co. as a potential strike target in contract talks with the Detroit Three automakers.
GM will now be the focus of bargaining as the two sides hash out a new contract agreement. The union’s contracts with GM, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler expire at 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 19. If an agreement isn’t reached by the deadline, the union could call a strike.
Any deal reached with GM also would be used as a pattern for the other two companies. The union, Unifor, represents 23,000 GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler workers in Canada.
“These negotiations are about the future of local communities, good jobs and the industry. Our demand is clear, invest today to build a future for tomorrow,” Unifor president Jerry Dias said at a news conference. “Policy makers and the public need to understand what is at stake here.”
Talks so far have been contentious, especially with GM. The company wants a contract that’s more cost-competitive with the United Auto Workers union in the US. Unifor wants guarantees that new products will go into a GM factory in Oshawa, Ont.
The Oshawa plant employs 2,400 hourly workers and builds the Chevrolet Impala, Cadillac XTS and Buick Regal. All three cars have been slow sellers as the North American market shifts away from cars to trucks and SUVs.
GM has said about 75% of the workers at the Oshawa plant are eligible for full retirement benefits, leading some workers to believe that the company wants to close the factory.
GM also employs 1,400 Unifor members at an engine factory in St. Catherines, Ont., and 60 people at a parts centre in Woodstock, Ont.
GM employs more than 6,000 Unifor members in Canada, but 2,600 who work at the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont. aren’t covered by the contract. That plant, which makes the hot selling Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain SUVs, operates under a separate contract that expires next September.