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Strike against GM likely averted in Canada

Unifor members at a rally in Canada
Unifor members at a rally in Canada

Unifor, the union that represents most Canadian auto workers, says it has reached a tentative contract with General Motors after "round the clock negotiations." The strike deadline was 11:59 p.m Monday.

The terms of the deal include a major concession by Unifor, according to the CBC:

A major concession in the talks was an agreement by the union to convert all new employees to a defined contribution pension plan. That's different from the defined benefit plans that legacy employees all have.
"We knew that over the life of the last four-year collective agreement GM did not hire one person, and a lot of it had to do with their public position on the defined benefit pension plan," Unifor President Jerry Dias told the CBC.
"Was it worth it to get new employees the opportunity to get jobs at our wages, at our security level and give up the [defined benefit] plan for new starts? The answer is yes," Dias said.

The tentative agreement is the first in the 2016 round of Unifor negotiations with the Detroit Three automakers in Canada. A strike would have affected numerous suppliers in the U.S. as well as potentially slowing production of some GM vehicles, especially if the strike lasted more than a day or two.

General Motors employs 4,000 Unifor members in Oshawa, St. Catharines and Woodstock, making the Impala, Equinox, Buick Regal, Cadillac XTS, and GMC Terrain, as well as engines, transmissions and components.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers, including about 23,050 Unifor members at the Detroit Three automakers.

General Motors of Canada says "the agreement will enable significant new product, technology and process investments at GM’s Oshawa, St. Catharines and Woodstock facilities, placing those operations at the forefront of advanced manufacturing flexibility, innovation and environmental sustainability."

The tentative deal will have to be ratified by a majority of Unifor workers.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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