Organizers have submitted a petition to Unifor leaders demanding that they disclose the full contents of tentative contracts with the Detroit automakers ahead of ratification votes.
“Members must have the right to look at, digest and formulate questions on the document that will determine their wages, benefits and working conditions for the next three or four years. This cannot be done in any meaningful way in the current ratification process,” said Rebecca Keetch, a laid-off worker at General Motors’ Oshawa, Ont., plant, said during a news conference Friday ahead of the petition being sent.
The petition, launched in early August, received about 1,540 signatures. According to organizers, it was sent via email to Unifor President Jerry Dias and chairs of the union’s Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Co., and General Motors Co. bargaining committees, though organizers said they would continue to collect signatures online.
Unifor and the Detroit Three are hammering out new collective agreements set to expire on Sept. 21. Unifor, which represents about 17,000 workers under those contracts, last week selected Ford as its target for pattern bargaining. The union, seeking product commitments and wage gains from the automaker, aims to pattern contracts with GM and FCA after it reaches a deal with Ford.
The petition calls for Unifor to publish “all revisions, additions, deletions and changes to the contract, clearly marked,” online and to “include a clear statement of all money and benefits negotiated on behalf of union reps and any money or benefits negotiated to be paid” to the union.
Unifor President Jerry Dias dismissed the petition, telling Automotive News Canada he would defer to local union leaders on matters relating to ratification votes, especially as they prepare to do so digitally for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If I dealt with every petition that was handed to us — if I ran the union based on petitions, you’d never get anything accomplished,” he said. “The bottom line is the local union leadership knows their facilities best and respond to the wishes of our members.”
Keetch said she found it “interesting” that Dias said he would defer to the locals, saying her understanding from discussions at union meetings was that the national union determines the process governing contract ratification.
“We will be forwarding a notice to the different chairs of the units involved letting them know that the petition has been submitted and asking them to support our members’ demands for greater contract transparency,” she said.
Currently, workers receive a highlights sheet from the union before the ratification vote. The petition’s supporters want Unifor to follow the lead of the United Auto Workers in the United States, which posts its “white book” detailing changes to the contract and agreements between the union and automaker ahead of the vote.