Pulp and paper, auto parts in tough negotiations

Will 2009 be the year of the wage freeze?

Last week, CLV Reports highlighted the public sector collective agreements that will expire in 2009 and offered suggestions as to what the negotiating environment would be in the coming year. This week we will do the same for manufacturing and utilities collective agreements.

Manufacturing. About 50 collective agreements covering 500 or more employees will be expiring in 2009. Over 55,000 employees currently fall under these contracts.

Over the course of several months beginning in April, contracts in the eastern pattern of the pulp and paper sector will come up for renewal. The west settled last summer with modest but respectable increases. At the bargaining conference held at the end of February, the leadership of the CEP vowed that, after this round of bargaining, “our pensions, our standard of living and our pattern bargaining systems will be intact.” In addition, president Dave Coles recommended the adoption of the western wage increases, despite the state of the economy. He also, however, stated frequently and clearly that the union would accept a “responsible agreement,” given the challenges facing the industry. “The economic crisis opens up an opportunity to change old ways of thinking that do not work anymore,” he added in a press release announcing that Abitibi Bowater would be the pattern company and that the union would be seeking a three-year deal.

The contracts for two major auto parts plants — TRW in St. Catharines and Accuride in London — will come up this year. Wage freezes are becoming very frequent in this sector. And, in addition to these parts companies, a number of transportation-related agreements are expiring: Motor Coach in Winnipeg, IMP in Halifax, New Flyer in Winnipeg, National Steel Car in Hamilton, Prevost Car in Ste-Claire, Quebec, Bombardier de Havilland in Toronto, Navistar in Chatham, Ontario, Kenworth in Ste-Thérèse, Quebec, and the Halifax Shipyard.

In British Columbia, the forest products agreements covering 9,500 sawmill employees will expire in June. The union is in the midst of setting bargaining goals.

Some large food and beverage contracts will be on the table this year. Among them are Kellogg in London, Canadian Fishing Co. in B.C., Olymel in Brampton, Sun Valley in London, Maple Lodge in Brampton, and, closing out the year with a bang, FPI in Newfoundland and Labrador, Labatt in Montreal, Maple Leaf in Brandon and Lakeside in Brooks, Alberta, all in December.

Finally, agreements expired for Canam Steel in St-Gédéon, Quebec and Arcelor in Contrecoeur, Quebec in January (and Arcelor has settled), Vale Inco in Sudbury in May and Lake Erie Steel in Nanticoke, Ontario in July.

Utilities. A couple of significant electricity generation and distribution agreements will be in negotiation this year. Toronto Hydro has already settled a bit early. Ontario Power Generation will have two agreements covering just under 7,000 expire in March. Manitoba Hydro will have two totaling 4,670 in March and May. In December, Bruce Power in Ontario, SaskPower and ATCO and Epcor in Alberta will all be in negotiations.

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