Do Unifor members believe this round of negotiations between their union and the Detroit Three were successful?
For a clue, look no further than the percentage of union members who voted in favour of the new contracts:
- At GM, 85 per cent of Unifor members who voted cast a ballot in favour of the new contract.
- At Ford, 81 per cent of voters did the same.
- And at FCA, 78 per cent of workers voted to ratify their new contract.
Now compare those figures to those from four years ago:
- At GM, there was 65 per cent support for a new contract.
- At Ford, there was just 58 per cent support.
- And at FCA, 70 per cent of workers voted to ratify a new contract.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Unifor President Jerry Dias told Automotive News Canada on Monday. The 2020 results “are probably some of the highest ratification numbers we’ve seen in decades.
“Our members are pleased, and that makes me pleased.”
They have every right to be after Unifor was able to secure nearly $5 billion in combined investment plans from each of the Detroit automakers, as well as some of the largest economic gains for members in years.
By and large, Dias and union leadership were able to meet the targets they set for 2020 bargaining — and then some.
Unifor wanted an investment for the Ford assembly plant Oakville, Ont., which was in danger of closing after Ford Edge crossover production ends there in 2023. Ford now plans to invest about $1.8 billion in the plant to build electric vehicles by 2026.
The union was looking to find a new product to build at the FCA plant Windsor, Ont., where slumping minivan sales led to the end of the third shift there earlier this year. FCA now says it will spend up to $1.5 billion to build EVs or plug-in hybrids on a new platform there by 2024.
Perhaps most surprisingly of all, less than a year after vehicle production ended at GM’s historic Oshawa, Ont., assembly plant, Unifor was able to secure an investment of up to $1.3 billion in the factory to build hot-selling pickups there starting in 2022.
If everything comes to pass as promised, it is difficult to overstate just how important each of those investments will be. The Ford and FCA investments would finally bring EV production to Canada and could bolster the country’s EV supply chain, making further investments in electric production more likely.
And the GM deal would have been borderline unthinkable to many last year, when vehicle production stopped in Oshawa. That was a devastating blow to the city’s economy and served as a symbol of the Canadian auto industry’s decline. But Oshawa might soon be seen as Exhibit A in its potential resurgence, or at least its resilience.
To be sure, not every question about the Detroit Three footprint has been answered. GM’s CAMI Assembly is on a separate contract that doesn’t expire until 2021. FCA’s Brampton, Ont., assembly plant still faces significant uncertainty beyond the life of the new three-year agreement. And the Oshawa and Windsor investments are dependent upon government incentives, which have yet to be announced.
But make no mistake: It has been a very long time since Canadian auto plants received this much good news in such a short period of time. After years marked by uncertainty, layoffs and the end of vehicle production in Oshawa, suddenly there is real reason for optimism for the Canadian auto industry.