Ford Motor Co. F-N and the Unifor union bargained through the night into Tuesday as both sides try to reach a tentative agreement ahead of a new midnight deadline tonight.
Unifor said early on Tuesday morning it extended the strike deadline by 24 hours after receiving a “substantive” offer from Ford minutes before midnight last night.
Steven Majer, Ford of Canada’s vice-president of human resources, said the automaker agreed to negotiate past midnight to reach an agreement.
Neither side provided details of what was on the table. Lana Payne, Unifor national president, said earlier on Monday pensions and wages were the main hurdles to an agreement.
Unifor, which represents 5,680 at Ford in Canada, is seeking a collective agreement that will be the template for talks with Stellantis NV and General Motors. GM-N
The last-ditch bargaining at a Toronto hotel comes as a strike by 12,700 United Auto Workers in the United States enters the fifth day. The UAW is striking three plants owned by the Big Three automakers, and warns more factories be idled by Friday if contract talks do not progress.
A Unifor strike in Canada would halt production of SUVs in Oakville, and engines in Windsor, in addition to parts distribution centres in southern Ontario and Edmonton.
Experts say the talks are crucial for both sides as the industry transitions to electric vehicle production. Automakers are seeking to manage labour expenses as they spend heavily on new assembly lines and supply chains to build electric vehicles. Autoworker unions are seeking long-term job security amid as their employers focus on vehicles that have fewer moving parts and require less labour to assemble.
Geraint Harvey, a professor at Western University, said late bargaining is a normal practice, and not a sign the sides are far apart. “If negotiations go to the final minute, that’s not indicative of irreconcilable positions, that’s indicative of negotiating positions,” Prof. Harvey said by phone.
In the wake of the pandemic, organized labour has been vocal in its demands for better wages, pensions and working conditions. Many people were laid off or gave financial concessions to employers trying to weather the COVID-19 crisis and the financial troubles of 2008-09.
Commercial airline pilots in the United States and at WestJet Airlines in Canada recently received large raises in new collective agreements. Autoworkers, many of whom saw their paycheques shrink and lost pension coverage, are trying to claw their back as automakers post robust profits and enjoy billions of dollars in government subsidies.
“All of these pressures are building up,” Prof. Harvey said, “and that’s why you’ve got the automotive workers saying, ‘Hang on now, it’s long overdue.’ And when we see company profits are as high as they are, workers are naturally looking for a share of that.”