Unifor's tentative Ford deal will secure employment in Windsor plants

A tentative deal between the union that represents Canadian autoworkers and Ford Motor Co. could bring a "historic investment" to the country's automotive sector, including Windsor's two Ford engine assembly plants. 

Ford employees say they were relieved following the announcement

Workers at Ford Motor Co.'s Windsor engine plants were relived to hear of the tentative deal and are set to ratify the agreement on Sunday. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

A tentative deal between the union that represents Canadian autoworkers and Ford Motor Co. could bring a "historic investment" to the country's automotive sector, including Windsor's two Ford engine assembly plants. 

The potential three-year deal involving a $1.98-billion investment, announced by Unifor president Jerry Dias Tuesday, promises to stabilize employment for Windsor employees by bringing a 6.8 L engine to the plants and electric vehicles to the Oakville operation in Ontario. 

President of Automotive Parts Manufacturer's Association Flavio Volpe said the news is monumental and allows Canada to be part of the automobile of the future. 

While the Unifor Local 200 president, John D'Agnolo, couldn't go into detail about the agreement, he said the announcement means new jobs and ensures operations in Windsor for the next few years. 

President of Automotive Parts Manufacturer's Association Flavio Volpe says this is a 'historic investment' and promises stability for the region's automotive sector. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

"When we think about what Windsor's gone through and the history of Windsor, we were down to just 1,200 workers from 6,300 so we recognize what it's like to be in trouble," D'Agnolo said. 

"And Jerry's made it clear along with our leadership in Ford council, that we'll do whatever we can to make sure we have investment in our communities throughout Ontario and this was no different in bargaining, we made sure we secured product so we get an opportunity for our kids to actually have jobs." 

Economic expert Rakesh Naidu also thinks the deal is quite promising.

"It's more significant because it's focused on the next generation of the auto industry, it is the electric vehicles," said Naidu, who is the president of Windsor-Essex's Regional Chamber of Commerce. 

He added that engine production in Windsor will generate opportunity for other companies that provide assembly components and parts, which can lead to supply chain and business opportunities. 

Despite the need for the region to diversify its economy, Naidu said if the local auto industry keeps pace with upcoming transformations it will "do well for us for the next several decades." 

"I don't think we should shy away from saying that 'hey this is our industry, this is our strength, this is what we are really good in,' because ... this is the envy of many different regions and countries so I think we should celebrate that we have such a strong industry, we should continue to of course diversify but we should always build on our strength," he said. 

'Good news for the future'

Many Ford employees who spoke to CBC News Tuesday said they were relieved with the announcement and hopeful for the future of work at their plants. 

"I think it's really good news, the engine line is pretty busy already and I think it will add already to the workforce and hopefully we can get even more people hired and I think it's good news for the future," said Steve Biro, an industrial millwright at Ford's Windsor Engine Plant. 

Unifor Local 200 president John D'Agnolo couldn't provide details about the agreement, but he says it will secure jobs for the future. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Assembler at Ford Motor Co., Krysten Lawton, said prior to this they weren't sure what the next five years would hold. 

"Now you can kind of take a breath and say ok, with the announcement of the 6.8 [litre engine] in Windsor, our workforce that is aging is going to be able to retire and now hopefully we'll be able to bring the younger people in," she said. 

Meanwhile, employee of Ford's Essex engine plant Frank Mcanally said he feels better knowing they likely won't strike. 

"It's a relief for all of us, you know nobody wants to go on strike," Mcanally said. "It's stressful times at our plant ... we've got some downtime coming, so we're afraid if we did go on strike we'd be left out there for a while." 

Assembler at Ford Motor Co. Krysten Lawton says they are breathing a sigh of relief after Tuesday's news. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

As of Monday, the strike deadline was extended beyond the set Sept. 21, 11:59 p.m. date. 

Details of the agreement will be sent to members on Sunday and until the agreement is ratified, Ford said the company will not comment. 

Up next at the negotiating table is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). 

"Now that the pattern has been set, it's time for FCA, they know that we're going to be down there this week ... and we're set, our bargaining committee is set and ready to hammer out a deal with them," said Unifor Local 444 president David Cassidy. 

The promising start has Cassidy feeling "really good" about upcoming deals. 

"The pattern's been set and Chrysler needs to sign the pattern on the dotted line and we'll make some adjustments around workplace issues ... but the reality is is our product, I made it very clear to them we need new product."