Richard Lautens/Toronto Star/Getty Images
Lana Payne speaks to delegates after being elected as the new president of UNIFOR, Canada’s largest private sector union, at the Metro Toronto Convention Center on August 10, 2022.
Unifor, Canada’s auto workers union, approved a tentative three-year contract with Ford on Sunday.
The deal, which Unifor called “exceptional.” Approved unanimously Friday by local union leadership, the union said in a news release. But despite that approval, only 54% of rank-and-file members voted to ratify the deal.
Union leadership said the deal was the best it could get for members.
“This is extraordinary collective bargaining, taking place at an extraordinary time,” union leadership wrote in a joint message to members included in the bargaining statement. “Autoworkers, like all workers, are caught by the affordability crunch and rising costs. High interest rates fuel economic uncertainty for households. We are still reeling from the devastating epidemic and damaging supply shortages that affected our jobs. Amidst these challenges comes a once-in-a-century automotive transition that, if done right, will grow Canada’s industrial footprint.
“Our UNIFOR-represented auto workers are the heart of Ford of Canada,” said Bev Goodman, CEO of Ford of Canada, in a statement. “This agreement is an investment in our talented and dedicated staff.”
Terms of the deal could affect negotiations to end the United Auto Workers strike against Ford, General Motors and Stellandis. At the very least, it raises hopes that a deal with Ford could be on the horizon.
Unifor won some key demands that Ford and other automakers have yet to agree on in negotiations with the UAW, including the return of a pension plan to Unifor members recently hired by Ford — rather than 401(k)-style retirement accounts. years.
The UAW strike, which began on September 15 with 12,700 members, demanded the resumption of traditional pension plans for employees hired since 2007.
Although UAW President Sean Fine said Friday that his union has made progress in negotiations with Ford, he did not indicate any progress on the pension issue.
And yet, because Ford is moving forward In its negotiations on other issues, the UAW limited its strike to Ford’s assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan.
“We want to recognize that Ford is serious about reaching an agreement,” Fine said Friday.
The UAW said there was no comment on the terms of the contract between Unifor and Ford this weekend.
In addition to improvements to pensions, the Unifor contract addresses Unifor’s key priorities, including a 10% wage increase in the first year of the contract, effective September 25, and 2% and 3% increases in the following two years.
The agreement eliminates health care exemptions for all current and former employees.
The contract includes Nearly 5,700 union members, including 5,300 workers in three plants, with nearly 400 workers spread across three distribution centers and two offices. Had they gone on strike, it could have affected production of some of Ford’s key models built in U.S. plants, as two engine plants in Canada produce the V-8 engines used in Ford F-150 pickups and Mustangs.
The deal will also serve as a blueprint for Unifor’s pattern bargaining and pave the way for new deals with Stellandis and GM. Unifor said it will announce soon whether it will negotiate with GM or Stellantis next.
This report has been updated with additional information