Unifor Deal at Ford Could Hit a Major Snag

CBJ — In a stance that has taken many by surprise, a union local at Ford’s Oakville, Ont., assembly plant says it is not willing to accept the same deal its national parent, Unifor, recently negotiated with GM Canada.

“We as a local bargaining committee have sent a very clear message to Ford Motor Company and the national union that the framework agreement between GM and the membership will not suit the needs of the membership in Oakville,” Local 707 president Dave Thomas said in a message on the group’s website. “Investment in Canada was the [No. 1] priority when we opened up bargaining but we all agreed that it would not be at the expense of the rest of the membership.”

Thomas said the local bargaining committee “will not sacrifice the needs of the membership in Oakville and settle on an agreement that doesn’t address our issues.”

On Sept. 25, GM workers represented by Unifor at Ontario plants in Oshawa and St. Catharines voted 65% in favour of a new deal that includes a 2% wage increase this year and another 2% in September, 2019. The collective agreement also includes a $6,000 signing bonus and lump-sum bonuses of $2,000 in each of the next three years for most employees.

The deal also includes improvements to benefits, hiring practices and a commitment by GM to invest $554 million in its Canadian operations. The deal will also see new hires brought in under a defined contribution pension plan, instead of the current hybrid plan.

Unifor typically picks an initial target company from the Detroit Three automakers to negotiate a deal that serves as the pattern for talks with the other two companies. GM was the target company this year.

Unifor is now in talks with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, meaning talks with Ford’s Canadian operations are yet to come. The union represents about 5,000 workers at the Ford Oakville assembly plant, along with about 1,400 workers at the company’s two Windsor, Ont.-area engine plants.

Unifor Local 200, which covers workers at the Windsor engine plants, has said it wants Ford to bring a new product to the area. But the final say will come from Ford.