Unifor-Ford deal a 'shot in the arm' for Windsor automotive sector
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell
Unifor and Ford Motor Company reached an agreement at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning on a three-year contract that will see new product coming to its two Windsor engine plants and a secure future for the company’s Oakville production complex.
The deal will result in $1.95-billion in new investments in Ford’s Canadian operations. About $1.8-billion of that will go towards retooling the Oakville operations, which will begin in 2024, to produce five new electric vehicles beginning in 2025.
The deal will also see the creation of battery production in the province for the next generation of vehicles. The union anticipates about 300 jobs will be created in assembling the batteries in Oakville.
“As an organization, we’ve hit a home run,” Unifor national president Jerry Dias said.
The deal also includes economic gains and improvements on shortening the gap on the salary grid for new members to reach top scale in wages.
Details of the deal will be released after Unifor’s Ford employees vote online on the agreement Sunday.
Dias said Ford’s Windsor engine plants will begin producing a new 6.8-litre engine in 2022 for the F-150 pickup truck and the Ford Mustang.
Combined with new engines secured in the 2016 negotiations, Dias said Ford’s future in Windsor is secure.
“Ford has identified its Windsor facilities as one of its key powertrain facilities,” Dias said. “With that comes future investment.
“It should also result in employment opportunities in Windsor. The exact numbers we’re still in discussions with the company about.”
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens welcomed the stability brought by securing Ford’s footprint in the city and province. That the deal comes with potential local employment increases at the engine plants is an unexpected bonus.
Ford’s pledge to invest $2 billion in Oakville and Windsor is a really great sign,” Dilkens said.
“We need to understand what this means for Windsor in terms of jobs, but today’s announcement certainly could be a shot in the arm for our automotive sector.”
Dilkens added the fact that Ontario will now be part of electric vehicle manufacturing will only enhance the multiplier effect associated with auto production.
“The production of electric vehicles in Canada for the first time will be great step forward for Ford and the Ontario economy,” Dilkens said.
“It links nicely with our push to be an auto mobility capital.
“There are many touch points here that fit nicely with what’s going on in the community and are very forward looking.”
Dias credited both the provincial and federal governments with offering “significant support” financially to help push the deal across the finish line.
It’s been reported the two government’s offered $500 million in support to build EV products and batteries at Oakville.
Ford’s investment is also the first significant commitment to electric vehicle production in the country. FCA Canada also produces a hybrid version of its Pacifica minivan in Windsor.
“I’ve seen the numbers reported ($500 million), but I’ll let the provincial and federal governments speak to those,” Dias said.
“What I will say is the federal and provincial governments have demonstrated they fully understand the importance of the industry to the country.”
The deal will preserve about 3,000 jobs at Oakville when the plant is fully electrified. Dias said there are currently 3,400 Unifor members at the plant.
There are about 1,600 Ford workers at Windsor’s two engine plants.
Canadian Association of Mold Makers chair Mike Bilton said government investment in support of producing electric vehicles in Oakville gives southern Ontario’s automotive suppliers another avenue to connect into the industry’s future.
“I feel that, especially now while the union negotiations are ongoing, positive government support to help transition Ford into another partial or full electric platform or supplementary tooling on a relative scale is a very good thing,” Bilton said.
“These funds will act as a direct value add to an already highly technical and automated space and will provide that element of flexibility and advancement needed as our industry advances. The tech and electrification supply base here in Ontario is well positioned to help Ford make that transition.”
Dias said the creation of battery production is also an attempt by government to create a complete domestic supply chain that combines Canadian mineral resources, manufacturing and assembly.
Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy said the importance of creating a domestic supply of next generation batteries for vehicles can’t be underestimated.
“We’re at the mercy of other countries,” Cassidy said. “Last year we couldn’t produce (hybrid Pacificas) in the quantities demanded because we couldn’t get enough batteries from China.”
During Tuesday’s news conference Dias also announced FCA Canada will be the next company targeted in contract talks. Those negotiations will begin Monday in Toronto.
“The elimination of the third shift (at the Windsor Assembly Plant) is problematic for our members,” Dias said. “Over 1,500 members lost jobs because of it.
“We need one probably two new products to be bring back the third shift. That’s the priority with FCA.”
Dias added new product for Brampton, which produces the Challenger and Charger, and securing the future of the Etobicoke Casting plant were also key issues in the FCA talks.