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Unifor members approve new three-year contract with General Motors

This Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, photo shows the General Motors logo. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Unifor says its members at General Motors of Canada have voted 85 per cent in favour of a new three-year contract that will mean the return of production to the automaker’s Oshawa, Ont., assembly plant.

The deal covers 1,700 workers in St. Catharines, Ont., Oshawa and Woodstock, Ont.

“I want to thank the members for their support because our solidarity proves that if we stick together, we are a powerful force and we can achieve gains and job security for all members,” said Tim McKinnon, Unifor‘s GM master bargaining committee chairman, in a statement.

“There is a future for the auto industry, and that future is `Made in Canada.”’

GM’s planned new investments under the agreement will include $1 billion to $1.3 billion at Oshawa as well as $109 million in St. Catharines to support added engine and transmission production and $500,000 in operations at the Woodstock Parts Distribution Centre.

GM Canada president Scott Bell said he expects the investment to be “significant” for Canada’s economy because it “will happen fast and generate thousands of new jobs.”

“Bringing pickup production back to Oshawa is noteworthy for a few other reasons as well. Demand for pickups remains strong and has accelerated through COVID-19, accounting for over 40 per cent of GM Canada’s sales,” said Bell in a statement.

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The deal was the final agreement to be negotiated between the union and the big U.S. automakers.

“We went into bargaining in the middle of a pandemic, facing great uncertainty. Now we can proudly say these three contracts will breathe new life into Canada’s auto sector,” said Unifor national president Jerry Dias in a statement.

Unifor says the GM contract follows the pattern-setting deal first reached with Ford that includes five per cent increases to hourly rates, a $7,250 productivity and quality bonus, $4,000 in inflation protection bonuses, improved benefits, shift premiums, and restoration of a 20 per cent wage differential for skilled trades.

The agreement also means that GM workers will have a new racial justice advocate in the workplace, and access to 10 paid days of domestic violence leave.

Earlier deals with Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles also included promises of billions in new investment in Canada. After Ford and FCA’s union agreements were announced, provincial and federal officials announced pledges to commit millions of dollars to electric vehicle production. GM’s deal with Unifor did not focus on electric vehicles, but Unifor said on Monday that “all three contracts include support from both the federal and Ontario government.”

Bell said the company is “in discussions with our government partners to see how we might do even more with the transformative investments we announced last Thursday.”

Bell said that the company is also continuing to hire local workers for its high-tech centre, which will open next year.

In a separate announcement Monday afternoon, GM said it will hire 3,000 more technical workers across the company by early next year, including 500 to 1,000 remote workers, as well as jobs in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Ontario and Texas. The company said the jobs will be filled before March 30.

Ontario is home to GM’s Canadian Technology Centre, its largest software engineering and development centre for GM outside the U.S., as well as the its Kapuskasing Cold Weather Development Centre and its McLaughlin Advanced Technology Track.

“GM is not only driving the industry’s move to new electric and self-driving vehicle technology; our team is helping to develop and test it right here in Canada,” Bell said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2020.

Anita Balakrishnan, The Canadian Press

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