Autoworkers in Canada ratified a new labor contract Sunday with General Motors, averting a resumption of a strike that had lasted about 13 hours on Tuesday.
Members of Unifor, the Canadian union that represents 4,300 workers at GM, voted 80% in favor of the new deal, which gives them base-wage increases of nearly 20% during the life of the deal and improves their pensions. In September, members of the same union at Ford had voted only 54% in favor of a similar contract.
The strike threatened to disrupt operations at GM’s US plants that depend on engines and transmissions built by Unifor members at some of GM’s Canadian facilities.
Had the GM rank and file of Unifor voted down the tentative deal, the union was prepared to immediately resume the strike. Given the narrow vote at Ford, a new strike at GM was a distinct possibility. Last week, rank-and-file members of the United Auto Workers union voted down a tentative labor agreement with heavy truck manufacturer Mack Trucks and went on strike as a result. That strike continues.
Unifor members in three Ontario cities went on strike at GM just after the deadline at 11:59 p.m. Monday. The strike ended shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday, when the two sides announced a tentative agreement.
“I am proud of our members at General Motors for their solidarity throughout their brief but decisive strike action and for ratifying this contract that contains life-changing improvements,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne. “This agreement reflects true collective bargaining. Our goal was to bring more fairness and equity to auto workplaces and to lift everyone up. We did that.”
“Nothing worthwhile is ever easy – and labor negotiations are no exception,” Marissa West, president and managing director of GM Canada, said in a statement. “Together, we’ve secured a deal that recognizes the many contributions of our 4,200 represented team members through significant increases in wages, benefits, and job security, while positioning GM Canada to remain competitive in the future.”
Unifor will now turn its attention to winning a similar contract for its members at Stellantis, which builds vehicles for the North American market under the Jeep, Ram, Dodge and Chrysler brands.
The two deals in Canada stand in contrast to the strike against the US operations of GM, Ford and Stellantis.
The United Auto Workers union has more than 33,000 members on strike against the three companies. The strike started on September 15 and targeted one assembly factory of each of the automakers. It marked the first time the UAW simultaneously went on strike against all three companies. The UAW has since expanded the strike to two more assembly plants at Ford and one at GM, as well as networks of 38 parts distribution centers operated by GM and Stellantis.
Both sides’ public comments suggest that negotiations are far apart, and neither has provided an indication that a deal is imminent.
UAW President Shawn Fain told members Friday that the union is prepared to continue to expand the strike with no advance warning if the company negotiators do not improve their offers. Executives at Ford said this past week that it has reached the limits of the additional money it can offer to reach a deal.