Canada’s Auto Union ‘Hopeful’ for Deal in GM Labor Talks

Updated on
  • Union communications director says talks ongoing at briefing
  • New deal needed before current agreement ends midnight Monday

Canada’s autoworker union says it’s hopeful that it will reach a deal on a new labor contract at General Motors Co. ahead of a strike deadline at midnight Monday.

“There are a number of key issues still outstanding at the negotiations table,” Denise Hammond, Unifor’s director of communications, said in a news conference in Toronto. “Our bargaining committee remains hopeful we will have a deal within the next four hours.”

Unifor, which represents 6,600 GM workers in Canada, is ready to strike if the bargaining committee fails to reach a labor agreement, she said. The midnight deadline remains in place, she said.

Securing investment and job commitments at GM’s plants in Ingersoll, Oshawa and St. Catharines, three Ontario cities near the U.S. border, were central to the negotiations that began last month. Unifor announced Sept. 6 that GM would be its first target in labor negotiations as it seeks to stem the flow of auto production to cheaper regions such as Mexico and the U.S., even with near-record North American auto sales and a weaker Canadian dollar.

“I’m always optimistic, that’s just my nature, because for me failure is not an option,” Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, said earlier Monday from Toronto. “There’s no question that both sides are committing to work this thing out.”

Dias expects he’ll have a better idea of the outcome of negotiations around 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. eastern time, he said.

Output Falls

Unifor represents more than 23,000 autoworkers at GM, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV in Canada. Any GM deal would provide a template for the other auto companies.

GM plans to close one of its two Oshawa production lines next year and wouldn’t commit to scheduling production on new vehicles beyond 2019 before labor negotiations finished.

“We remain focused on working with Unifor to reach a mutually beneficial and competitive new agreement," Jennifer Wright, spokeswoman at GM Canada, said by e-mail earlier.

Canada auto output fell to 13 percent of North America production last year from about 17 percent in 2009, while output in Mexico rose to about 20 percent, according to data from Ward’s Automotive Yearbook. Canada lost more than 53,000 automotive jobs from 2001 to 2014, according to a study by the Automotive Policy Research Centre.