September 6, 2016 10:35 am
Updated: September 6, 2016 5:27 pm

Unifor to target General Motors in labour negotiations with Detroit Three

Alan Carter takes a look at how Canada's auto workers union is targeting General Motors with a September 19th strike deadline.

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TORONTO – The union that represents about 23,000 auto workers in Canada has selected General Motors as its target company in the opening round of contract talks.

Unifor says any agreement it strikes with GM will serve as a template for negotiations with the other two automakers, Ford and Fiat Chrysler – a process referred to as “pattern bargaining.”

Unifor president Jerry Dias said the union chose GM as its target because that’s the company that poses the biggest challenge in terms of hammering out a deal.

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Dias said he’s concerned about the possibility that GM may be planning to shut down its operations in Oshawa, Ont., where it currently has two production lines.

The consolidated line, which produces the Chevrolet Equinox, is slated to close next year.

READ MORE: Oshawa, Ont., ground zero for latest talks between Detroit Three, unions

Meanwhile, the flex line – which produces the Chevrolet Impala, the Buick Regal and the Cadillac XTS – has no product scheduled past 2019.

Dias said more investment is also needed in new engines and transmissions at GM’s engine plant in St. Catharines, Ont.

GM has previously said it won’t make any promises about investing in its Canadian facilities or allocating any new products to its Oshawa plant until after an agreement with the union has been ratified.

“I’m here to tell you today that that is not going to happen,” Dias said during a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday.

“We are not going to ratify an agreement with General Motors under any circumstance unless there is a commitment to our facilities. If that may be considered a line in the sand, so be it.”

Unifor’s contract with the so-called Detroit Three automakers expires Sept. 19.

Last month, members of the union voted in favour of strike action to back their contract demands, which include wage increases and securing more work to build vehicles.

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