Unifor Prepares to Strike After FCA Negotiations Go Sideways [UPDATED]

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Canada’s preferred choice in unions, Unifor, warned that contract negotiations with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles were progressing slower than anticipated over the weekend. By Wednesday, news of a strike had begun brewing over social media. Local 444 was issuing FCA-WAP bargaining updates on Twitter and Facebook that included marching orders in the event that the day’s discussions didn’t end in a handshake.

“To ensure we are prepared for a strike, or strike coordinators have been working to finalize the details needed in order to begin, if and when necessary,” the union wrote to members. “If a tentative agreement is reached by 11:59pm October 14th, without an extension in place, then Local 444 along with brothers and sisters across the country at all FCA facilities will be on strike. As the talks continue late into the night, any updates will be posted to our social media pages and web page.”

That scenario is looking increasingly likely, especially as Unifor has explained there was little progress to report all afternoon. It also opened this week suggesting contract talks were “not quite where we feel [they] should be with this limited amount of time left on the clock.”

Unifor wants to pattern its deal with FCA after the deal it reached with Ford Motor Co. in September. That arrangement involves some sizable commitments to existing facilities (with a twist). It also gets a little more liberal with raises, bonuses and provides an easier pathway toward both. Fiat Chrysler is allegedly holding things up nearly across the board. The union told us that the automaker hasn’t been willing to budge on wages or health care benefits (which I thought Canadians got through the government) and lacks “firm commitments on facility investments and product allocations.”

That’s an important issue for Unifor, most notably at FCA’s ailing Windsor plant responsible for minivan production. The union wants the site to see some fresh metal inject as family vans continue losing market share. Canada is not eager to lose the existing facilities and would like to see additional investments, especially for EV programs it seems happy to spend tax dollars on. It wouldn’t be the first time the fate of a Canadian auto plant was decided by how much the government could sweeten the deal.

The probable strike would suspend production of the Chrysler Pacifica and Voyager in Windsor. Meanwhile, Brampton would be pressing pause on the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, and Dodger Charger. FCA’s casting plant in Toronto would also need to be shut down, possibly impacting other facilities in its supply chain.

[Update 10/15/2020: Unifor has reported it reached a tentative agreement for 9,000 Canadian FCA workers at the very last minute. It declined to go into specifics prior to voting but stated that the arrangement would be patterned after the Ford deal. Virtual ratification meetings and voting begin on Sunday.]

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