Lana Payne speaks to delegates after being elected as president of UNIFOR, Canada’s largest private sector union, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Aug. 10, 2022.
Richard Lautens | Toronto Star | Getty Images
DETROIT — Labor strikes are now an international issue for General Motors after the Detroit automaker failed to reach a tentative agreement by Monday for roughly 4,300 workers represented by Canadian union Unifor.
The Canadian autoworkers will join roughly 9,200 United Auto Workers members who are on strike in the U.S. at two assembly plants and 18 parts and distribution centers for GM. The U.S. strike started Sept. 15 and has since expanded.
The new strikes in the Canadian province of Ontario affect an assembly plant that produces light- and heavy-duty Chevrolet Silverado trucks; production of some V-6 and V-8 engines used in a variety of vehicles such as the Chevrolet Equinox; and a stamping facility that produces parts for various cars and trucks.
The Canadian strike against GM comes days after Unifor President Lana Payne said Friday the union was encountering “resistance” from the automaker regarding a number of “important elements” of the tentative deal.
Payne singled out worker classifications as a major issue under the deal, which is patterned off a ratified agreement between the union and Ford Motor.
Striking United Auto Workers (UAW) members from the General Motors Lansing Delta Plant picket in Delta Township, Michigan September 29, 2023.
Rebecca Cook | Reuters
“We have been crystal clear with the company that there is no agreement until this is resolved,” Payne said Friday in an online video addressed to Unifor members. “With days to go before our deadline, we have major issues left unresolved.”
Other issues involve universal health allowance for retirees and future product investment commitments, she said.
Unifor, which represents 18,000 Canadian workers at the Detroit automakers, took a more traditional approach to its negotiations than its U.S. counterpart. The Canadian union is negotiating with each automaker separately and using a deal first reached last month with Ford as a “pattern” for GM and Chrysler parent Stellantis.
Ford’s three-year deal included hourly wage increases of up to 25%, reactivation of a cost-of-living allowance to battle inflation and a shorter progression for workers to reach top pay, among other new or altered benefits.
The agreement, which covers more than 5,600 workers at Ford facilities in Canada, was ratified by 54% of workers who voted.
That traditional patterned bargaining approach runs counter to the UAW’s new strategy of bargaining with all three automakers at once.
The UAW has been gradually increasing the strikes since the work stoppages began, after the sides failed to reach tentative agreements by Sept 14. The targeted, or “stand-up,” strikes are taking place instead of national walkouts in which all plants simultaneously strike.
Only 25,200 workers, or roughly 17% of UAW members covered by the expired contracts with the Detroit automakers, are currently on strike. UAW President Shawn Fain previously said the union would increase the work stoppages based on progress in the negotiations.
Thousands of other UAW members have been laid off as a result of the strikes, including roughly 2,175 workers at other GM facilities. Most notably, the Detroit automaker was forced to idle production of a Kansa assembly plant that produces Chevrolet Malibu sedans and Cadillac XT4 crossovers.