Two Ford offers rejected but confident about an agreement to avert strike: Unifor National President
Thousands of striking autoworkers have walked off the job in the U.S. – a picture that could also take shape in Canada early next week should Ford Motor Company and Unifor fail to reach a new employment contract.
Unifor, the union representing Canadian autoworkers, chose Ford to negotiate a pattern agreement given the automaker’s large presence in Canada and its pivotal role in the green energy transition, Lana Payne, national president of Unifor, told BNN Bloomberg in a television interview on Friday.
Autoworkers have voted unanimously in favour of a strike if an agreement is not reached by the deadline of Sept. 18 at 11:59 p.m. – putting them in position to be on strike next Tuesday in the absence of an agreement.
Payne said a new deal has not yet been reached with the employer, despite the union receiving two offers from Ford.
“We’ve rejected both of them,” she said of the automaker’s offers so far.
Pensions, wages and attracting investment are among the union’s key priorities in its negotiations – along with setting work standards for the electric vehicle transition taking shape in the industry.
Unifor is negotiating for an agreement “that reflects the historic nature of the transition to electric vehicle manufacturing,” the union said in an August press release.
“That means setting the highest possible standards that protect the livelihoods and job security of all autoworkers now and in the future,” the union said.
In a Friday interview with BNN Bloomberg, Payne explained that Unifor, Canada’s largest public sector union, felt it had a strong bargaining positon with Ford, given the importance of the company’s large Oakville facility in Canada’s electric vehicle transition.
“We wanted to make sure that we’re getting this transition right, in terms of EV transition and protecting our members through that process,” she said.
While the industry’s progress is important to Payne, she said workers are just as critical to the sector’s future success.
“There’s a lot at stake, there’s no doubt about it,” she said. “We’re seeing a rejuvenation of the auto industry in Canada, the footprint is growing. This is all very good, and a good time for us to be bargaining in that kind of climate.”
Payne said employee unrest is stemming from a period of great corporate profits amid sticky inflation.
“We’ve gone through a period where corporations have done very well, CEOs have done very well, and we’re (workers) looking for our share. This is occurring everywhere and on top of that we have a bit of a cost of living crisis going on so this is driving a lot of the discussions,” she said.
Throughout this negotiation period with Ford, Payne added she is keeping a close eye on strike negotiations south of the border.
“We’re going to have assess daily and hourly basically in terms of what’s happening in the United States,” she said. “The Canadian and U.S. auto industry is highly integrated.”