Ford’s Canada workers threaten to join US union on strike

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Ford is facing a possible strike by workers on both sides of the US-Canada border, as 5,700 workers threaten to walk out of the company’s Canadian plants when their contract expires at midnight.

“While we remain at the table, the likelihood of a strike increases with each passing hour,” said Unifor, the union that represents about 18,000 workers at the three major carmakers in Canada, including Ford’s Ontario assembly plant and two engine plants located just beyond the Detroit River, which divides the US from Canada.

Ford did not immediately respond for comment.

A fresh walkout would add to Ford’s troubles after the United Auto Workers, which represents the Detroit companies’ US workers, went on strike on Friday against Ford and rivals General Motors and Stellantis — the first time the union has ever struck all three companies at once. About 13,000 of the roughly 150,000 UAW members walked out of three plants, one belonging to each carmaker.

UAW president Shawn Fain on Monday told NPR that the union had “minimal conversations” over the weekend with carmakers. “So the ball’s still in their court,” he said. “We’re going to keep moving as we have and just see how things progress.”

Unlike the UAW, which has taken on all three carmakers at once, Unifor has taken a more traditional approach to bargaining in the North American auto industry. Unifor picked Ford as the company to target first, and after reaching a contract with it, intends to try to secure similar contracts with GM and Stellantis.

Unifor president Lana Payne said last month when the union kicked off bargaining with Ford that members’ expectations were “high”. The union wants to protect pensions, land “substantial” wage increases and secure more investment in Canadian plants.

“Profits are up and so is the cost of living,” she told reporters last month. “Workers have shown time and time again that they are prepared to fight — and to strike, if necessary — to have their demands met. This is the moment we are in. And no one, no one, should underestimate it.”

The union is also demanding company support for workers as the industry transitions to electric vehicles, a concern the UAW shares. Tesla, the leader in EV sales, has fired workers who attempted to organise its US plants, and the batteries the Detroit carmakers’ EVs are scheduled to make come from joint ventures with Korean battery manufacturers that employ non-union labour.

“We are insisting that every EV and EV-related job is a good union job — with the same rights and employment terms as autoworkers enjoy today,” she said.

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