GM reaches deal with Unifor autoworkers in Ontario, halting hours-long strike

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Offer similar to one ratified by Ford employees

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General Motors of Canada Co. reached a tentative agreement with about 4,300 autoworkers in Ontario on Sept. 10, just hours after employees went on strike demanding pension improvements, higher pay and more job security.

Canada’s largest private-sector union, Unifor, which represents the autoworkers, said the agreement was similar to the one ratified by Ford Motor Co. of Canada’s workers last month and focused on issues such as pensions, retiree income supports and converting full-time temporary workers into permanent employees.

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All strike actions have been put on hold to allow members to vote on the agreement, Unifor said, and it covers autoworkers at three Ontario plants in Oshawa, St. Catharines and Woodstock. Workers went on strike, for the first time since 1996, after the union was unable to reach an agreement with GM by the 11:59 p.m. deadline on Oct. 9.

“When faced with the shutdown of these key facilities General Motors had no choice but to get serious at the table and agree to the pattern,” Lana Payne, Unifor’s national president, said.

Under the tentative agreement, production employees will get base hourly wage increases of nearly 20 per cent while skilled tradespeople will get 25 per cent. By the end of the three-year deal, a top-rate production assembler will be paid $44.52 per hour while a journeyperson skilled trades worker will be paid $55.97 per hour.

The starting rate for temporary part-time and production workers will initially increase to $29.67 per hour from $24.26, and then increase to $30.26 within 12 months and $31.16 by the end of the agreement. In addition, full-time temporary workers with at least one year of seniority will be converted to permanent status once the agreement is ratified.

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“This agreement delivers the kind of historic pay increases our members need and significant pension improvements that will protect their living standards in retirement,” Jason Gale, Unifor’s Ford master bargaining chair said in a statement.

GM Canada president and managing director Marissa West said in a statement that the “record agreement” recognizes the “many contributions of our represented team members with significant increases in wages, benefits and job security while building on GM’s historic investments in Canadian manufacturing.”

Earlier in the day, Unifor’s Payne said the union hoped to get a similar deal to the one ratified by Ford last month. That deal included wage increases of almost 80 per cent in some cases and productivity bonuses of up to $10,000 for full-time workers.

She said there had been progress, but several aspects still needed to be discussed and that it was going to be a “challenge” to get a similar agreement to Ford’s.

“No company likes to take the terms and conditions that you have negotiated with another company and apply it to their own operations. This is never an easy thing to do,” she said, but added that GM would not be able to “break our pattern — not today — not ever.”

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Jessica McNally, a quality inspector at GM, said the agreement would be “life-changing” for the company’s workers.

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“We live paycheque to paycheque right now, we have had issues with part shortages, where sometimes shifts get cancelled, we get sent home early, and it really affects us, our paycheques,” she said in a video posted on Unifor’s website. “Getting these gains, will make it easier for people.”

Unifor will now turn its attention to getting a deal with Chrysler parent Stellantis NV.

• Email: nkarim@postmedia.com

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