Tentative deal with Ford avoids Unifor strike

Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, says his negotiating group is unanimously recommending a tentative labour agreement reached late Monday with Ford Motor Co.

Overall investment from new deal estimated at $700 million, with most going to Windsor enhancements

Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, has shepherded successful labour talks for auto workers with Fiat Chrysler, General Motors and now Ford. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, says his negotiating group is unanimously recommending a tentative labour agreement reached late Monday with Ford Motor Co.

The announcement was made just before 12:30 a.m. ET Tuesday, or about a half-hour after a strike deadline had been put in place.

The union representing about 6,700 Canadian workers at Ford had said there had been "movement" in negotiations at an earlier update.

Unifor had threatened job action at its Ford facilities in the Ontario cities of Bramalea, Oakville and Windsor if a deal wasn't reached.

There hasn't been a strike by Canadian workers at a Detroit Three automaker since 1996.

Unifor was seeking a deal similar to those it reached with General Motors and Fiat Chrysler America in pattern bargaining that began in the summer. 

Dias in his early remarks expressed relief after nearly three months of pattern bargaining and gratitude for the company's workers, stating that at Ford, "we had incredible problems and challenges."

The overall investment from the new deal was pegged at $700 million, the large majority of it going towards Windsor.

The deal is said to include wage increases for the company's legacy workers, and the committee said they didn't budge on Ford's demand for offsets in wage progression.

"We had zero intention of going down the road of temporary workers," said Dias.

A desire to reduce the salary grid from 10 to eight years for new workers was not achieved.

Oakville rep confident despite concerns

For Windsor, a new engine program at the Essex plant was heralded as being "top of the food chain."

"This new engine will be the highest technology, will be the most fuel efficient, will have incredible torque, horsepower and will be put into Ford's No. 1 selling vehicles throughout the North American chain," said Dias.

The Windsor plant will continue producing 6.8-litre engines, said Chris Taylor, president of local 200 there, with the expectation that will occur through the life of the agreement before that program is phased out.

With respect to Oakville, Dias said a commitment was secured to make the plant there the "primary builder of export vehicles internationally," with export competition from Ford plants in China a concern.

The president of the Oakville Local 707 had recently said publicly that workers there wouldn't accept a deal similar to what Unifor negotiated with GM Canada.

But the committee expressed confidence the tentative agreement would be ratified.

"There's things in this agreement that we don't like, and there's things in every agreement we have bargained that we don't like," said Bob Scott, vice-chairman of the Ford bargaining committee and the Oakville representative on the committee. "[But] we believe at Local 707 that we have bargained the best agreement that we have seen in a very long time."

The Ford Flex crossover, produced in Oakville, will be discontinued, it was announced.

As in the negotiations with the other automakers, Dias called upon the federal government to provide support for the industry and develop a proactive strategy, saying those elements were missing the past decade under the previous government.

The voting process at locals is expected to begin on the weekend.