ONTARIO: The US auto sector avoided more pain as Ford late on Tuesday reached a tentative deal with a Canadian union even as the Detroit Three automakers face the possible escalation of separate coordinated US strikes by the United Auto Workers union.
Unifor, which represents about 5,600 Canadian auto workers, were threatening to go on strike at all three of Ford’s plants in the country if a deal was not reached by 11:59pm on Tuesday.
“We leveraged our union’s most powerful weapon: the right to strike,” Unifor said of the tentative deal in a statement. “The gains achieved were hard fought for over weeks of negotiation.”
The agreement remains subject to ratification by Unifor members, Ford’s Canada unit said in a statement, adding it would not disclose details of the tentative deal.
Unifor had sought improved wages and pensions, as well as support in the transition to electric vehicles and additional investment commitments by Ford.
Unifor will now turn to getting deals with General Motors and Chrysler parent Stellantis, whose deadlines had been extended while the Ford talks proceeded.
Unifor’s talks with the Detroit Three automakers in Canada are separate from the UAW’s coordinated US action that led to about 12,700 workers going on strike last week against one assembly plant at each of the Detroit Three automakers.
The US strikes have halted production at plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri that produce the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler and Chevrolet Colorado, alongside other popular models.
The UAW has said it will announce strikes against more US plants on Friday if no serious progress is made in talks with automakers.
Analysts expect plants that build more profitable pickup trucks like Ford’s F-150, GM’s Chevy Silverado and Stellantis’s Ram to be the next strike targets if the walkout continues.
The UAW and companies disagree over pay and benefits for workers. The three automakers have proposed 20% raises over the 4-1/2 year term of their proposed deals, though that is only half of what the UAW is demanding through 2027.
Besides higher wages, the UAW is also demanding shorter work weeks, restoration of defined benefit pensions and stronger job security as automakers make the shift to EVs.