UPDATED: 8/11/16 12:41 pm ET – adds details
Unifor today opened talks on a new labor contract with Ford and Fiat Chrysler in a round of negotiations the union has framed as critical to the future of auto manufacturing in Canada.
Details of the proposals were not immediately known. Unifor has made clear that its top priority in negotiations with the automakers will be securing new product and investments in Ford’s Windsor engine plants and in FCA’s Brampton assembly plant, which produces the Chrysler 300, Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger.
Ford and FCA follow General Motors, which on Wednesday opened contract talks with Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union. Unifor, which represents 23,000 Detroit 3 workers, has painted this round of negotiations as crucial to the viability of the Canadian auto sector.
“There will be no deal unless there is a commitment to Canada,” Unifor President Jerry Dias said Wednesday. “It can be done, and, frankly, it will be done.”
Steve Majer, Ford of Canada vice president of human resources, said in a statement that the automaker is “ready to overcome the challenges” it faces in Canada.
“We approach the process with a shared goal — to pursue long-term viability for Canadian auto manufacturing,” Majer said. “The global landscape has significantly changed in four years, and through our discussions we’ll need to find innovative ways to be competitive and support our employees’ way of life.”
Canada missed out on new Ford engine production in Windsor when Ford announced last year that it would build a new engine and transmission plant in Mexico. Ford decided to build the plant in Mexico after it was unable to reach a deal with federal and provincial governments in Canada.
The current contracts are set to expire on Sept. 19. Unifor will choose a lead company to pattern negotiations with in early September.
Dias and members of Unifor’s bargaining committees are set to speak with reporters this afternoon.