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Canadian Autoworkers Threaten Strike

Aug. 30, 2016
A GM assembly plant and a Ford engine plant could close within two years without guarantees from the Big Three, according to the Canadian union.

MONTREAL — Canadian autoworkers have voted unanimously to authorize a strike if contract talks with the big three U.S. automakers do not lead to new investments in Canadian assembly plants.

Unifor, which represents the 23,000 Canadian autoworkers who work for Ford, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors, set a September 19 strike deadline after the near-unanimous backing Sunday for a strike if the automakers don’t meet their demands.

“Unifor autoworkers vote overwhelmingly (over 97%) for strike mandate,” the union said in a Twitter message.

Canadian plants have steadily lost jobs to Mexico during the past 25 years, and unless the negotiations produce investment commitments, the auto industry will continue to contract, according to Unifor.

The union specifically wants guarantees that GM will build new products at the company’s assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario; a commitment from Ford to build a new engine at its motor plant in Windsor, Ontario; and an investment by Fiat Chrysler at its plant in Brampton, Ontario. The factories in Windsor and Oshawa could close in two years without new investments, wiping out hundreds of jobs, Unifor said.

“The bargaining committee will not accept a deal without a commitment to investment in Canada’s auto sector,” said Unifor national president Jerry Dias, leader of the negotiations.

The union believes that new investments by the three automakers — all of which have heavily invested in new factories in Mexico during the last decade and refurbished plants in the United States — would also create hundreds of spinoff jobs that would bolster the Canadian economy.

In 2009, the three committed to maintain in Canada assembly of roughly 25% of vehicles manufactured in North America prior to the financial crisis, in exchange for a Can$13.7 billion bailout of the industry. Now the country assembles only around 15% of the cars and trucks built on the continent, according to Unifor.

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