The union that represents Ford workers in Canada has told the 5,680 members “to prepare for all scenarios, including strike action” as it pushes for an agreement that will set the pattern for negotiations with the other two Big Three automakers, Stellates NV and General Motors.
Lana Payne, Unifor national president, said the two sides have failed to agree on pensions and wages, and her negotiators will remain in talks at a hotel in downtown Toronto right up until the midnight deadline.
“A deal is still not in place,” Ms. Payne said in a video statement issued at 7:25 p.m. on Monday.
The last-ditch talks happen as targeted strikes in the United States by 12,700 United Auto Workers enter the fourth day. UAW workers walked off the job on Sept. 15 at three of the Big Three’s assembly plants: Ford in Wayne, Mich., GM GM-N in Wentzville, Mo., and Stellantis in Toledo, Ohio.
She said if Ford workers walk off the job in Canada, it would be the first at the employer since 1990, and a “total strike,” not smaller stoppages at specific factories like those conducted by U.S. autoworkers.
“Our strike teams are prepared and ready to go,” Ms. Payne said. “There is still much negotiating to do but this is as serious as it gets and the consequences are real.”
In Canada, Unifor represents Ford workers at the Oakville assembly plant, two engine factories in Windsor, and office and distribution sites in Windsor, Bramalea, Paris, Ont., and Edmonton. A strike would halt production of the engines that power the F series pickups and Mustangs, and the output of Edge and Nautilus SUVs. “No parts will flow to dealers and aftermarkets from our distribution centres,” Ms. Payne said.
Rachel Aleks, a professor at the University of Windsor, said the contact talks are “of paramount importance” to an auto sector that is remaking itself to produce electric vehicles.
EVs take fewer hours and workers to build, posing concerns about long-term job security, Prof. Aleks said. And plants that are being retooled are closed for extended periods, forcing the union to ensure the pivot period is as brief as possible with minimal layoffs.
Unifor chose to target Ford because it is the closest of the Big Three to switching to electric output, investing $1.8-billion to retool its Oakville assembly plant in mid-2024 to make EVs and battery packs.
“One of the reasons Ford was chosen as the pattern was because it provided the clearest picture of what this transition would look like,” Prof. Aleks said, adding unions are keen to organize any new EV facilities, she said. “This round of bargaining is critical to what auto manufacturing looks like for decades to come.”
The U.S. strike is at factories that make Ford Bronco, Chevrolet Colorado pickup trucks, Jeep Wrangler, and other models.
Unifor and UAW are not related but have a shared history and some common goals Ms. Payne has said she is demanding better pensions and wages, plant investments, and certainty that jobs will be protected as automakers retool to produce plug-in and hybrid vehicles.
Union officials point to soaring profits and executive pay at the three automakers, and say the current talks are aimed at ensuring workers get their fair share.
Neither Unifor nor Ford in Canada have provided details on their offers.
In the U.S., UAW leader Shawn Fain is demanding raises of 40-per-cent over four years, improved pensions, shorter weeks and an end to the two-tier wage scales.
Stellantis said on Saturday its offer includes raises of 21 per cent over four years. GM has offered a similar deal. Mr. Fain has rejected these amounts and called the CEOs “greedy.”
“What they want is they want to pay us poverty wages, so they can keep on making billions more in profits,” Mr. Fain said in an interview on CBS on Sunday. “And they can keep enriching the shareholders and the CEOs and the corporate executives, while the workers pay the price for it and get left behind.”