Unifor strike ‘on hold’ after GM reaches tentative agreement with Canadian workers | CBC News

Unifor strike ‘on hold’ after GM reaches tentative agreement with Canadian workers | CBC News

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A tentative contract agreement between General Motors and the union representing Canadian autoworkers could end a strike of more than 4,000 auto workers that began early Tuesday.

Agreement ‘will change people’s lives,’ said Unifor national president Lana Payne

Thomson Reuters

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People walking in a covered skywalk above highway traffic.

Plant workers return for the 2:30 p.m. shift at the General Motors Oshawa Assembly Plant, in Oshawa, Ont., on Tuesday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A tentative contract agreement between General Motors and the union representing Canadian autoworkers could end a strike of more than 4,000 auto workers that began early Tuesday.

GM said in a statement that work will resume at Canadian facilities Tuesday afternoon after it reached the agreement around 1 p.m. About 4,300 unionized workers went on strike at three GM plants in Ontario just after midnight. 

The walkout came after Canadian union Unifor said GM was “stubbornly refusing” to match the three-year contract the labour union reached with Ford Motor, which offered wage increases of up to 25 per cent in Canada.

“When faced with the shutdown of these key facilities, General Motors had no choice but to get serious at the table and agree to the pattern,” said Unifor national president Lana Payne.

Payne said GM agreed to all outstanding issues including pensions, retiree income and converting temporary workers into permanent employees.

Unifor said strike actions are “on hold” to give union members time to vote on the tentative agreement.

The new agreement affects workers at GM’s assembly plant in Oshawa, a powertrain plant in St. Catharines, and a parts distribution centre in Woodstock.

WATCH | Unifor president says agreement will ‘change people’s lives’: 

Tentative deal halts Unifor strike at GM

Featured VideoUnifor president Lana Payne announces a tentative deal has been reached with General Motors after a 12-hour strike. The new contract follows the pattern agreement established with Ford last month and she expects it to form the basis for upcoming contract negotiations with Stellantis.

Pattern bargaining

Earlier, Payne said the union had a lot of bargaining leverage with GM because the Oshawa factory has been working around the clock to build profitable Chevrolet pickup trucks. In her remarks to reporters, she cited “demographics” as a  major hurdle.

Unifor has used the “pattern bargaining” approach in its talks, first reaching a deal with Ford and then expecting GM and Stellantis to match. The United Auto Workers (UAW), on the other hand, broke with that approach under its new leadership.

“This is an agreement that is going to change people’s lives,” Payne said at a Tuesday news conference in Toronto. “Particularly folks who were in precarious employment, people who were in a progression grid that normally would have taken eight years to get to the top of and now they will be there in four years — they’ll be able to support their families and be the kind of contributors to their community that they would want to be.”

Union members carry signs on a picket line.

Striking members of Unifor picket outside of General Motors’ assembly complex in Oshawa, Ont. (Nathan Crocker/CBC)

Besides wage increases across the board, the new tentative agreement includes improvements to all pension plans, a three-per-cent increase in company contributions to retirement funds, reactivation of a cost of living allowance in December 2024, bonuses, and two new paid holidays for Family Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

If  the three plant strike had continued, GM would have faced disruptions in production.

Workers in St. Catharines make engines for a variety of vehicles, powertrains for the Chevrolet Equinox and Corvette, and engine component parts.In Oshawa plant, workers build Chevrolet Silverado trucks, one of GM’s most profitable models, while the plant’s stamping operations supply various parts for GM North America. 

LISTEN | GM workers walk off the job: 

Metro Morning7:19More than 4,000 General Motors Canada workers have walked off the job after failing to reach an agreement with automaker

Featured VideoLana Payne is national president for Unifor — the union behind these labour negotiations.

Wells Fargo said in a research note that Oshawa was the smallest of GM’s pickup plants, producing about 2,800 trucks per week. The St. Catharines’ plant has a wider impact since since V8 engines are used in most of GM’s large SUVs and heavy-duty full-size pickups, along with about half of its standard full-size pickups.

The walkout was set to intensify the headache faced by the automaker in the U.S. where it is racking up millions of dollars in daily losses to the UAW strike that started Sept. 15. 

GM has lost 34,176 vehicles of production since the start of  the UAW strike, according to an estimate by Deutsche Bank. The automaker said last week it had 442,586 vehicles in stock.

A fire in a barrel, surrounded by people holding picketing signs that say 'On Strike'.

Unifor workers strike outside the General Motors St. Catharines powertrain plant in St. Catharines, Ont., Tuesday. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Up next for Unifor is bargaining a new collective agreement with Stellantis, the automotive manufacturing company that employs nearly 10,000 Canadians, Payne said.

“I expect that Stellantis will come here kicking and screaming the same way that General Motors did,” Payne said. “But our members at Stellantis deserve this pattern agreement too … so we’ll be fighting for them every step of the way.”

Stellantis makes a wide variety of vehicles including Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep and Ram Trucks.

In U.S., 25,000 autoworkers are on strike

In the United States, about 25,000 United Auto Workers (UAW) union members working for the Detroit Three automakers are on targeted strikes while UAW members at Volvo Group-owned Mack Trucks walked out on Monday after overwhelmingly rejecting a proposed five-year contract.

The three-year contract ratified last month with Ford affected more than 5,600 workers at its Canadian facilities. Unifor was able to reach a tentative deal without strike action.

#Unifor members on strike at @GMCanada at Oshawa Assembly Complex, St. Catharines Powertrain Plant and Woodstock Parts Distribution Centre. #AutoTalks2023 pic.twitter.com/UpFE9UZVkD

@UniforTheUnion

The Canadian operations of the Detroit Three are much smaller than in the U.S. but each have critical factories in Canada.

“Everything our members do, from the trucks we assemble, the stamping plant we run, the engines and transmissions we build and the parts we deliver, are all critical to GM’s bottom line,” Unifor GM master bargaining chair Jason Gale said.

Unifor represents about 18,000 Canadian workers at Ford, GM and Stellantis.

With files from CBC News

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