Unifor Workers Ratify Fiat Chrysler Deal

CBJ — Workers represented by Unifor at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles here in Canada have voted to approve a labour agreement with the American automaker.

The agreement clears the way for Unifor President Jerry Dias and his team to begin negotiations with Ford.A deal with General Motors is also in place.

Just over 70% voted to ratify the four-year deal, which covers 9,750 manufacturing workers. A rejection would have triggered a strike at Fiat Chrysler, shutting down assembly plants in Windsor and Brampton, Ontario.

Unifor says that Fiat Chrysler has committed to building a new vehicle at the Brampton assembly plant if the automaker secures adequate government assistance and market conditions warrant the investment. The union previously said Fiat Chrysler agreed to invest $325 million in Brampton to rebuild a paint shop.

Unifor uses a pattern bargaining strategy to negotiate with the automakers, selecting one company to negotiate with first and then holding the other two to the broad terms of that deal. Some Ford workers have already criticized the template, and it is not clear how union leaders can address their concerns without deviating from the pattern.

The GM and Fiat Chrysler contracts maintained a 10-year earn-in period during which new workers are paid less than more experienced employees, which is unpopular with some Ford workers.

The president of Local 707, which represents workers at Ford’s Oakville, Ontario, assembly plant, said in early October his members would likely reject any deal with a 10-year earn-in. About 2,200 of Oakville’s 5,000 unionized workers were hired under the earn-in.

In talks with Ford, the union has said it will push for investment in engine plants in the Windsor area that employ about 1,700 workers. But if it secures investment in Windsor without winning over Oakville’s new hires, those workers have the numbers to reject a deal on their own, triggering a strike.