Unifor opened contract talks with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis in Toronto Aug. 10, as both sides grapple with the transition to electric vehicles and the rising cost of living for workers throughout Canada.
Official handshakes between union President Lana Payne and top company negotiators were followed by short closed-door meetings with each of the automakers, as the employers got first looks at thick binders comprised of union bargaining proposals.
“I made it very clear to the companies today that our members’ expectations are very high,” Payne told reporters at a press conference following the sit-downs.
“And for good reason. Profits are up and so is the cost of living.”
The talks follow a volatile three years under the previous collective agreement, which saw major disruptions tied to the pandemic and microchip shortage, as well as an 18-month stretch of big-ticket investments in new and existing Detroit Three plants in Canada.
They also come amid a period of high profitability for automakers, including Ford, GM and Stellantis.
Payne said improved wages and pensions, support during assembly plant transitions to EVs and further details about promised investments “must be addressed” in any contract the union entertains. She refused to lay out specific union proposals, but said Unifor will be demanding “substantial wage improvements” that “reflect the affordability crisis, as well as the extraordinary profits that the companies are making.”