Life&Culture

Autoworker union still in talks with GM as contract expiration looms

Autoworker union still in talks with GM as contract expiration looms

The union is threatening job action if it doesn't reach a deal with GM by 11:59 p.m. Monday.

"I'm always optimistic, that's just my nature, because for me failure is not an option", Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, said by phone from Toronto.

Unifor represents 23,050 members that work at all the Detroit Three companies, Fiat-Chrysler, Ford and GM.

The Oshawa plant now assembles some GM Equinox vehicles, overflow from the CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, whose workers are covered by a separate labour agreement, and other vehicles that will be phased out or moved after 2019.

Dias said GM had made a proposal, but talks were not going as well as he had hoped, he said.

Sunday night, an update for Unifor members said the bargainers had made progress in the areas of health and safety, pensions and benefits, production standards and skilled trades.

While it's focusing negotiations on GM, the tentative agreement Unifor reaches will "set a pattern" for agreements with all three automakers.

There are no obvious products that would go into the Oshawa plant, and the automaker said previously it would only make future product decisions after a labor deal. Dias and Unifor have threatened the strike of about 4,000 workers at GM plants in Ontario unless a new four-year contract is reached by September 19.

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Asked whether the two sides were discussing a new product for GM's Oshawa assembly, Dias said: "They understand that they have to do something, but we're not really talking about anything specific, which is problematic".

GM and other auto makers have tried to run their plants at 100 per cent capacity or higher - through the use of overtime and extra shifts - to meet the high demand.

For Unifor, that's a deal-breaker - saying it won't make the mistakes of the past.

Unifor, which represents more than 20,000 autoworkers, has said its top priority is securing production of new vehicle models.

It was not clear if any of the talks have progressed on securing new product and investment for Oshawa and St. Catharines.

The work stoppage would also impact production at St. Catharines, which builds V-6 and V-8 engines and transmissions for 12 models, including the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain. The union has extended its contracts with the two companies, meaning workers would not be in a legal position to strike on Tuesday.

Hammond said GM workers should remain on the job "until information is provided" by a local picket captain.


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