Canada Unifor union ratifies C$554-million new investment GM deal – Reuters

Posted: Monday, September 26, 2016

TORONTO Canada’s Unifor union has ratified a deal with General Motors Co worth C$554 million ($420.84 million), the labor group said on Sunday as it prepares for related talks with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

Workers voted 64.7 percent to ratify the deal, which will see the auto maker renew investments in its local plants, Unifor said in an evening statement.

Unifor, which represents some 4,000 GM workers, reached that deal on Monday just minutes before a strike deadline. The four-year deal granted job security and wage increases, but less favorable pensions than before.

The ratification is expected to affect some 16,000 Unifor workers with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Ford Motor Co, whose contracts also are up for negotiation.

Under a process called patterned bargaining, Unifor’s agreement with GM will be used as a template for talks with the other companies, which are expected to agree to similar terms.

Unifor has said it will negotiate next with Fiat Chrysler, and has set a tentative strike deadline of midnight Oct. 10.

Fiat Chrysler did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Unifor President Jerry Dias said the union will be in talks with Fiat Chrysler on Monday, and that a significant issue will be the future of the company’s plant in Brampton, west of Toronto.

“We need some clarification,” he told Reuters by telephone late on Sunday afternoon, before the ratification results were released. “We need some answers. We ultimately need some commitment.”

Unifor has said it will ask Fiat Chrysler to upgrade an outdated paint shop at the plant, which makes the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Challenger and Charger sedans.

Dias said he does not expect talks with Fiat Chrysler to be easy, but it will be hard for the company to ignore the precedent set by the GM deal.

GM spokesman Tom Wickham said in a statement the company is “pleased,” and that it is working toward “potential support agreements” with federal and provincial governments to “optimize the competitiveness” of its Canadian operations.

In its deal with GM, the union gave up defined-benefit pensions for new hires. Dias has said concessions were necessary to ensure GM continues operations in the province of Ontario, home to nearly all of Canada’s once-thriving auto industry that has been losing out to the Southern United States and lower-cost Mexico.

(Reporting by Ethan Lou in Toronto; Editing by Bill Trott and Sandra Maler)

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