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New deal ratified by autoworkers

Four-year contract sees hundreds of millions pumped into Oshawa operation

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

First, union leadership signed the deal with General Motors. Now, that deal has been accepted by the union’s rank and file.

In a ratification vote of Sunday, 64.7 per cent of Unifor members between Oshawa, St. Catharines and Woodstock voted in favour of the new deal that will see $554 million in new investments in the automaker’s Canadian manufacturing operations.

“I’m completely satisfied (with this deal),” Jerry Dias, Unifor’s national president, told The Oshawa Express on the day of the ratification votes.

“Look, it’s fair for people always to want more, but the simple facts are that these are well paid, middle class jobs in a tough industry, and these are tough jobs so they deserve every nickel they make, but our ultimate goal is about solidifying the parts for the present so that there’s something to build on for the future, and that’s what this whole set of negotiations was about.”

In fact, Dias says that it was not until the final day of negotiations that he realized that a tentative deal was going to be signed without workers having to walk out – however, there was no doubt that a deal would be signed at one point.

“There was not one industry expert that anticipated this. The only people that anticipated this was the bargaining committee and my leadership team,” Dias says.

“Ultimately, we were not walking away from the table until we had a solution. For us, it was only a question of when. Frankly, we didn’t realize that we were going to get a tentative agreement without a strike until a few hours before. We were working on the product towards the end, but we all knew we were going to be successful right from the beginning because we were determined.”

As part of the deal, workers will see their wages increase four per cent over the lifetime of the four-year deal, equating to approximately $12,000 over the course of the contract. Workers will receive a signing bonus of $6,000. As well, 700 temporary workers will be transitioned to permanent full-time status.

As for what will roll off the factory floor in Oshawa, workers will be doing finishing work on pick-up trucks brought to the plant from south of the border, along with the extension of the Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impala.

With negotiations now officially complete between Unifor and General Motors, the union is moving on its next target in the Detroit Three negotiations: Fiat-Chrysler.

“We’ve got challenges with Fiat-Chrysler with the Brampton plant, we have challenges with Ford with our Windsor plant, but ulitmately we are very focused on solidifying the Canadian footprint,” Dias says.

“We can have the best wages and benefits in the world, but it doesn’t mean a damn thing if your plant’s closed.”

In an online update, Stephen Carlisle, the president of GM Canada, says the automaker is pleased that the new deal is done and that it will be looking to lawmakers for assistance in growing its manufacturing operations.

“While some of the details of the new agreement have already been shared, GM Canada is also in discussions with our provincial and federal government partners on possible support agreements that can help to optimize our competitiveness for the future,” Carlisle states.

“We are exploring how to build an advanced manufacturing footprint that sets new standards for innovation, quality, flexibility, productivity and environmental sustainability. Our governments understand the importance of this opportunity and we hope to be able to share more information on those discussions soon.”