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$1.5B+ in Canadian auto investments will reverse fortunes: Unifor


November 1, 2016
By Alexandra Posadzki The Canadian Press

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Nov. 1, 2016 – The three biggest North American automakers have committed to investing more than $1.5 billion in their Canadian operations, a move that will revitalize the auto sector, Unifor said Tuesday.

The union, which represents more than 23,000 auto workers in Canada, heralded the settlements hours after it reached a tentative agreement with Ford, concluding its negotiations with the so-called Detroit Three.

“This has been a real home run,” Unifor president Jerry Dias said in an interview.

“This is the first time in over decade that we are going to see a real reversal of the fortunes of the auto industry here in Canada.”

Heading into bargaining talks, the union made clear that its primary goal was to secure investment from the automakers in their Canadian operations. Dias had expressed concerns about the ebbing away of jobs from Canada to jurisdictions such as Mexico and the southern U.S., where labour and electricity costs are cheaper.

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But the deal Unifor struck last month with General Motors marked a turning point when the company agreed to move some engine production from Mexico to St. Catharines, Ont.

“Who would have believed when we kicked off 2016 bargaining that we would have had product moving from Mexico and going to the GM plant in St. Catharines?” Dias said.

“It’s unheard of. It’s always been the other way around, Canadian jobs going to Mexico.”

On Tuesday, about half an hour past a midnight strike deadline, the union representing 6,700 Canadian Ford workers announced it had reached a tentative settlement after days at the bargaining table.

The negotiations with Ford were the toughest of the three, the union said, but they resulted in a deal that, if approved during ratification votes on Saturday and Sunday, will see the automaker devote $700 million to its Canadian facilities.

Dias said the “overwhelming majority” of that investment will go to one of its two engine plants in Windsor, Ont.

A Ford Canada spokeswoman said in an email that the company will not discuss the tentative deal until after its unionized workers have had a chance to review and vote on it.

Unifor was seeking a deal similar to those it reached with General Motors and Fiat Chrysler in pattern bargaining that began in the summer.

Both Fiat Chrysler and General Motors have agreed to invest $554 million each in their Canadian operations.

Dias said a number of factors came together to allow Unifor to negotiate such favourable agreements, including the resolve among members to go on strike and the low Canadian dollar, which benefits Canadian manufacturing and exports.

“The stars were all aligned,” Dias said. “We just needed to make sure that we brought it home, and we did.”

Brad Duguid, Ontario’s minister of economic development and growth, said it wasn’t long ago that experts were predicting that the province would lose assembly and engine plants.

“If this final deal is ratified, it will represent a renaissance of investment in Ontario’s manufacturing sector, sustaining thousands of jobs at these plants in Oshawa, St. Catharines, Woodstock, Brampton, Oakville, and Windsor as well as thousands of more indirect jobs associated with these auto facilities,” he said in a statement.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016