Ford Motor Co. of Canada’s unionized workers have narrowly voted in favour of a three-year contract that provides wage increases of 15 per cent over three years, pension improvements and a $10,000 signing bonus.
The Unifor agreement covers 5,680 Ford employees at the Oakville SUV plant, Windsor engine plants, and distribution centres in Ontario and Edmonton. The ratification, announced Sunday, sets the stage for the union’s talks with the other two Detroit-based car makers, Stellantis NV and General Motors Co., which have not yet started.
“Priorities met! Pattern set,” Lana Payne, Unifor’s national president, said in a statement.
Bev Goodman, chief executive officer of Ford of Canada, said “this contract invests in our talented and dedicated employees, who remain consistently focused on the critical work of assembling our vehicles, building our engines and components, improving customer satisfaction, and expediting parts delivery service to our more than 400 dealers.”
K. Venkatesh Prasad, vice-president of research at the Center For Automotive Research, said the thin approval – with 54 per cent voting in favour of the contract – could signal that workers are reacting to the uncertainty brought on by the coming transition to electric vehicles. Many jobs, including those making engines and transmissions, will vanish industrywide.
“It’s hard for me to get inside the mind of what’s going on. What it means is the other 46 per cent have something to say,” Mr. Prasad said by phone. “Clearly, there’s a message there.”
Workers get a 10-per-cent raise in the first year of the deal, then 2 per cent and 3 per cent in the following years, according to information provided by Unifor.
Workers in the skilled trades will receive raises of an additional 2.75 per cent in Year 1 of the contract and 2.5 per cent in Year 3.
Ford said the three-year pay raises are the largest for the car maker’s workers in Canada, and three times the increase in 2020.
“This is a very rich agreement,” said Jim Stanford, director at the Centre for Future Work and a former economist at the Canadian Auto Workers union.
However, he says the contract’s approval rate was low by historical standards, which he attributes to workers’ discontent over the years-long erosion of their incomes and soaring costs of living while investors and companies enjoyed rich rewards.
“Workers are angry, and rightly so,” Mr. Stanford said.
The agreement boosts a production worker’s hourly wage to $42 in the first year of the deal to $44.50 by the third year, from $37 now. A skilled tradesperson will make $56 an hour by the end of the contract, up from almost $45 now. These rates include cost of living top-ups.
New hires currently start at $24 an hour and take eight years to make the standard hourly rate of $37. Under the new contract, these employees join the regular pay scale after four years.
Mr. Stanford said the gains reflect the high-tech nature of the work and the robust profits made by the automakers.
In addition to better pensions, people hired since 2016 will see their defined contribution plan converted to a defined benefit one, separate from the traditional plan.
The agreement includes a renewed commitment from Ford not to close any facilities during the life of the contract, and additional capacity and upgrades at the Windsor plant that makes the 7.3-litre engine.
Ford is about to close the assembly line in Oakville and retool it to make electric vehicles. Unifor bargained for improved income supports for workers laid off in the transition.
In the United States, meanwhile, the United Auto Workers on Friday expanded their strikes against Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. The UAW’s demands include 40-per-cent raises and a four-day work week.