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Unifor workers overwhelmingly ratify new FCA contract

Windsor, Ontario. June 18, 2020.  Day shift workers depart as afternoon shift employees arrive at FCA's Windsor Assembly Plant Thursday.
Windsor, Ontario. June 18, 2020. Day shift workers depart as afternoon shift employees arrive at FCA's Windsor Assembly Plant Thursday.

Unifor workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CA Canada voted 78 per cent in favour of ratifying a new contract paving the way for what union and automotive officials predict will be a bold step into the industry’s electrification generation.

The 8,400 workers voted online beginning Sunday morning with the results being released Monday.

“It’s been a roller-coaster ride of emotions these past few months, losing the third shift,” said Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy.

“We won’t flip a switch and everyone comes back to work. But there’s a future for them and the Windsor Assembly Plant.”

Production workers at the Windsor Assembly plant, which will receive $1.3-$1.5-billion in new investment, voted 86 per cent in favour of the deal while 89 per cent of the skilled trades voted in favour.

Pending an agreement for government funding for Windsor Assembly, FCA Canada will make the plant the first known facility capable of producing internal combustion, hybrid and battery electric vehicles under the same roof in North America.

The flexible assembly lines will allow for products ranging from small cars to SUVs to medium-sized pickup trucks.

FCA’s Brampton plant will also get a $50-million investment to produce three new versions of the Challenger and Charger and continue to produce the Chrysler 300.

The Etobicoke Casting plant will also get $14 million to produce two new products.

“FCA has maintained a strong footprint in Canada for nearly a century,” Mark Stewart, chief operating officer for FCA North America, said in a statement.

“Over the last decade, we have invested over $4 billion in our Canadian manufacturing facilities, more than any other OEM in the country and it is our intention to maintain this leadership.

“This agreement bolsters our global competitiveness and positions us for future growth with new product investment and new jobs, while also demonstrating our commitment to our employees, their families and the communities we represent.”

The company also confirmed its intention to add 2,000 new jobs in the next three years with the return of a third shift at Windsor Assembly.

“This puts Windsor at the centre of the next generation of Canadian mobility,” Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association president Flavio Volpe said.

“It’s been a helluva of a month to be in the automotive business in Ontario and there is no place where that’s more prevalent than Windsor Essex.”

Cassidy said retooling of the Windsor plant would begin during the lifetime of the new three-year deal. A battery electric vehicle will be produced for the 2025 model year.

Cassidy dismissed concerns that the provincial and federal governments might not find the money to close the deal with FCA Canada or that the company might have a change of heart prior to the next round of negotiations.

“We have a binding agreement and I know what the position of the governments are,” Cassidy said.

“I talked with Premier Ford last week and he told me he has our back on this. Minister (Navdeep) Bains (Ministry of Innovation, Science and Industry) also has said he has our back.

“I know the government funding will be there.”

Cassidy said no figures have been bandied about publically, but he expects it to be similar to the $590 million the province and feds will be giving to the Ford Motor Company for the electrification of its Oakville Assembly complex.

Volpe also dismissed concerns about the solidity of FCA’s commitments to the investments.

“You don’t put your tires out there in public to be punctured,” Volpe said.  “We are way past that point of concern.”

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens is also relieved to see some stability outlined for the industry and the addition of new jobs.

“The new green manufacturing of vehicles presents opportunities in computer programming, coding software development and engineering,” Dilkens said.  “At the same time, we get to keep our bread-and-butter manufacturers.

“This is great news for Windsor Essex and our entire region.”

Volpe added it’s revealing about how the company views the product they intend to place in Windsor with the commitment to a third shift.

“What FCA is saying is their forecasters have bet there’s going to be a real increase in volume,” Volpe said. “FCA is confident what they do put in the plant is going to sell like hotcakes.”

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Contract highlights

  • 2.5 per cent wage increases in the first and third year and a four per cent lump payment based on annual pay in year two
  • W age grid for new hires shortened from 11 to eight years
  • By contract’s end hourly wages for production workers rises to $37.33 per hour (currently $35.40) while the skill trades increases from $41.88 to $44.77
  • 20 per cent wage rate differential between production and skill trades’ workers restored.
  • A ratification bonus of $7,250 along with $2,000 bonuses in each of years two and three
  • Five and 10 per cent shift premiums for the afternoon and night shifts respectively
  • Reduction to three years for supplemental unemployment benefits eligibility
  • 2,500 retirees and surviving spouses 80 years of age and older will get a one-time payment of $500
  • Improvements to health, dental and disability program benefits
  • One-time $40,000 retirement incentive will also be offered in 2021
  • Company will no longer try to outsource its transportation division in Windsor
  • 90 new vacation replacement positions created at Windsor

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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