Unifor calls strike at GM plants in Canada

The Canadian union representing General Motors Co. workers at three plants called for a strike against the automaker early Tuesday.

Unifor called for the work stoppage against GM shortly after an 11:59 p.m. Monday deadline it had set earlier to reach a tentative agreement with the company. In a statement, Unifor President Lana Payne said the strike was the result of GM “stubbornly refusing” to follow the pattern agreement established with Ford Motor Co.

“The company knows our members will never let GM break our pattern — not today — not ever,” Payne said in the statement. “The company continues to fall short on our pension demands, income supports for retired workers, and meaningful steps to transition temporary workers into permanent, full-time jobs.”

Unifor’s negotiations with GM cover about 4,300 workers at the St. Catharines Powertrain Plant building engines for the Chevrolet Equinox and Corvette, Oshawa Assembly Complex making light- and heavy-duty Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks and parts for other vehicles, and the Woodstock Parts Distribution Centre in Ontario. Oshawa is the plant GM previously closed in 2019 only to revive it for truck production in 2021.

Unifor’s strike against GM was called on day 26 of an unprecedented strike by the United Auto Workers representing American autoworkers at GM, Ford and Stellantis NV. GM-UAW members are on strike at the Wentzville, Missouri, midsize truck plant, the Lansing Delta Township Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse plant and all of GM’s Customer Care and Aftersales facilities. In total, about 9,200 UAW-represented GM employees are on strike in the United States.

Jennifer Wright, GM Canada’s communications executive director, said in a statement that GM has “made very positive progress on several key priorities over the past weeks, we are disappointed that we were not able to achieve a new collective agreement with Unifor at this time.”

She added that GM will “remain at the bargaining table” and is committed to reaching a deal that’s “fair and flexible” for its employees.

Unifor’s strike was called after Payne on Friday told members the two sides remained at odds over several issues because GM wasn’t agreeing to follow aspects of the pact Unifor got with Ford.

Late last month, Unifor/Ford members ratified a new three-year deal that included the single largest negotiated general wage increase in the history of Unifor, formerly the Canadian Auto Workers.

The deal offered increases of 10% the first year, 2% the second year and 3% the year after, as well as cost-of-living adjustments. It also reduced the amount of time an in-progression employee needs to reach the top pay scale from eight years to four. For those workers who haven’t reached top scale, it raised the percentage those workers get in the first three years.

One issue Payne mentioned on Friday was that GM was resisting transitioning full-time temporary workers to permanent-employee status. GM was also seeking a lower universal healthcare allowance for retirees than the quarterly allowance Ford agreed to, Payne said.

Payne also noted that Unifor had not received anything confirming the existing programs and future programs GM has announced, including next-generation pickup trucks at Oshawa and electric drive units at St. Catharines.

Payne said at the time Unifor expected “to see these commitments in writing and in the collective agreement. GM knows this, but there have been no advancements on this front to date.”

Members from Unifor Locals 222, 199 and 636 will remain on strike until the pattern is met, the union said. Members of Unifor Local 88 at GM’s CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, where the BrightDrop electric delivery are built are covered by a separate collective agreement and will continue operations.