Unifor, Big Three auto makers talks set to begin

Promises to push automakers on investment

Unifor will open contract talks this week with Canada’s three largest auto manufacturers.

First up will be General Motors Wednesday, then Ford and Fiat Chrysler on Thursday, the union said.

"These are perhaps the most important auto contract talks in a generation," said Unifor president Jerry Dias . "There will be no deals with any of the companies without commitments from each of them for investments in Canada."

Negotiations are expected to go until the end of August with all three companies. The union said a pattern bargaining target will be identified in early September.

In pattern bargaining, negotiations focus on one company, establishing a pattern that will model the contracts for the other automakers. Once a deal is ratified with the first company, focus shifts to the next one and then the third.

At its meeting June 1, Unifor's Auto Council voted unanimously to make new investments in Canada, including new product allocations, the top priority of this round of talks.

"The automakers' relative health and the strength of the North American auto market make now the ideal time to invest," said Dias.

Workers helped the auto companies weather the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 and deserve to be compensated for it, the same as shareholders and executives, he said.

Contracts with the Detroit Three companies expire at 11:59 pm on Sept. 19.

"This system has served both the companies and the workers well, ensuring we don't have a race to the bottom and can maintain good jobs and strong communities," said Local 200 president Chris Taylor, chair of the master bargaining committee.

Unifor is Canada's largest private sector union representing more than 40,000 in the auto industry, 23,000 employed by the GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler. 

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