Unionized Canadian auto workers at Ford Motor Co. began voting on a tentative agreement Saturday that their union says makes gains on its core priorities of pensions, wages, managing the electric vehicle transition and new investments, all areas of concern to UAW members on picket lines in the United States.
Regarding wages, Unifor said workers would be in line for a 15% increase over the duration of the three-year contract.
Voting, which is being handled online, began on Saturday morning and is scheduled to end at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
Unifor, the union that represents 5,680 Ford workers, along with 14,000 workers at General Motors and Stellantis, which owns Jeep, Ram, Dodge, Chrysler and Fiat, has taken a more traditional approach to bargaining with the Detroit Three than the so-called “platform” targeted by the UAW. Up Strike strategy, choosing Ford as the lead company to start negotiations before turning to others. The union will announce the next target company after the ratification vote, assuming it is approved.
A strike against Ford was seen as a strong possibility in Canada as well, but the Dearborn automaker made what the union described as a substantive offer just before the contract expired Monday night and the two sides extended their talks beyond the deadline. Notably, only Ford has avoided the latest expansion of the UAW strike, as the union announced on Friday that workers at GM and Stellantis parts distribution centers will join the picket lines due to progress with Ford in bargaining.
The overview of the agreement provided by the union — Ford previously said it would not provide details — highlights how close union officials are to calling a strike.
“This is an extraordinary deal. It did not come easily. Ford only came to the union at the eleventh hour with a substantive offer and the openness to meaningfully address our priority concerns. They knew we had leverage in the talks. If we struck, the entire Canadian operation would grind to a halt — and most North America, too. They knew we were serious, that we had leverage and we were going to use it. “They came to the pump,” the overview said. “The 24-hour extension of our agreement helped us reach this final agreement together – one that has the unanimous support of the negotiating committee Elected principal.
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Unifor said its top bargaining priority is pensions. The overview noted that there have been no negotiated increases in this area at Ford since 2005, describing the pensions as “unprincipled conversations” with automakers since the Great Recession.
One win in the tentative agreement means that employees in a defined-contribution retirement plan hired on or after Nov. 7, 2016, will be enrolled in a new pension plan in 2025 that includes monthly pensions for workers and surviving spouses. Other improvements include an increase in monthly benefits for those working in the retirement plan.
As for wages, the agreement stipulates a 10% increase in the first year of the contract, followed by a 2% and 3% increase for each of the other two years of the contract. There are also quarterly adjustments to the revitalized cost of living allowance starting late next year along with other COLA improvements as well as skilled worker percentage adjustments.
The agreement comes with a bonus of $7,459 ($10,000 CAD) after ratification, excluding part-time temporary workers, who will receive $2,984 ($4,000 CAD). Conversions from Canadian dollars are based on the exchange rate as of Saturday.
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The chart puts the current full hourly rate at $27.84 ($37.33 CAD) for production workers and $33.39 ($44.77 CAD) for skilled trades workers. By the end of the decade, full production workers will be at $33.21 ($44.52 CAD) per hour, and skilled trade workers will be at $41.75 ($55.97 CAD) per hour.
Workers in progress who were hired on or after September 24, 2012, will also see the time taken for the full rate drop from eight years to four years.
Regarding investments and job security, the overview said the company reaffirmed its commitment not to outsource major operations during the term of the contract, and reaffirmed its plans to convert the Oakville Assembly Complex from gas-powered vehicle production to electric vehicle production, with plans to launch it. First EV there in 2025.
The union also said Ford is committed to halting facility closures for the duration of the contract.
The overview also notes health care-related benefits, although they are not the main focus of the highlights as they might be in a US agreement. Under Canada’s publicly funded health care system, “all Canadian residents have reasonable access to medically necessary hospital and physician services without paying out of pocket,” according to a government website.
In addition, the agreement adds two new paid holidays.
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