Unifor may have scored financial gains in its latest contract negotiations with auto parts supplier Magna International, but its members priced themselves out of at least 60 jobs in Windsor, Ont., while doing so.
About 1,000 workers make seat frames Fiat Chrysler minivans, built in Windsor, and foam seat parts for the Chevrolet Equinox, assembled at General Motors’ CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont.
After rejecting a contract and striking for about 16 hours earlier this week, workers at Integram Seating overwhelmingly approved a new, better deal, with 86 per cent voting in favour of the contract Monday night.
Members made it clear "they wanted significant improvements in different areas," including a larger lump-sum signing bonus, lower copayments for benefits and a higher wage, Unifor Local 444 President Dino Chiodo said.
The approved deal included a $3,500 signing bonus, up from $1,000, and the elimination of employee copayments for benefits, down from the 50 cents per hour they would have been required to pay under the rejected deal.
In order to pay for the cost increases, Magna informed the union it would move some work out of the plant, eliminating between 60-90 jobs.
"Once we went back with changes, [Magna] told us once they put more money in the agreement they would remove the GM foam. We had expressed that to our members Sunday and they understood that," Chiodo said. "This is what we had to do in order to come back to our membership with something they felt was respectable and could be ratified.
"As a labour leader, my intent is not to eliminate jobs for gains. At the same time, it’s a democratic process, and our members spoke loud and clear."
Beyond denying Chiodo’s claim that Magna was "already in there moving out molds," Magna spokeswoman Tracy Fuerst had no comment.
Chiodo said even the terms of the rejected contract would have put the GM work risk.
"They were concerned about what would happen with General Motors foam, but they would revisit it and try and make it work," Chiodo said of Magna officials. "It’s a little disheartening when you know you lost the security that was there."
The ratified deal also puts an additional 200 jobs in jeopardy if the company finds it too rich in the long run, Chiodo said.
"They will go back and recalculate the numbers for the [FCA] foam, which could be … a loss for us in the future," Chiodo explained.
The only guarantee the union has is that it will continue to build the seat assembly for FCA for the next four years. That’s because the union agreed not to pursue a wage increase beyond the terms in the rejected deal, which included a 7.5 per cent increase over four years.
That means workers start at $17.68 per hour and top out at $26.62 per hour.
"The company made it very clear to us that if we improved the wages by any means, they would take the seating component of our work and move that. We weren’t willing to gamble with that piece," Chiodo said. "We said it from the beginning, we have enough power to blow off our heads if we’re not careful."