The head of the union representing thousands of Canadian auto workers says he is “a*sessing” the impacts of a major U.S. auto sector strike.
About 13,000 members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union walked out on Friday at Detroit’s three automakers – the first time the union has done so in its 88-year history. This comes after their leaders failed to close a significant gap in contract negotiations and the current four-year deal expired at midnight.
It also comes as Unifor is conducting contract negotiations in Canada with U.S. automakers.
The Canadian union is in negotiations with Ford Motor Co. before its contract expires on September 18. Unifor hopes a deal with Ford can serve as a model for workers at other automakers.
“We are living in unprecedented times. The auto industry is experiencing a historic transformation with significant impacts on our jobs, our sk**ls and the entire supply chain,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne during a briefing online for members on Thursday.
“We need to make sure this transition works for us with good union jobs and secure work for all auto workers in Canada. »
The U.S. strike at Ford, General Motors and Stellantis will likely determine the future of the union and the U.S. auto industry at a time when the sector faces a historic transition from building internal combustion automobiles to manufacturing of electric vehicles.
The American automotive sector is also deeply integrated with Canadian industry.
Automakers rely on their operations and suppliers in Canada and the United States as components cross the border before being a*sembled into a finished vehicle.
“We don’t know yet how big that impact will be,” Payne said.
“Our team here will a*sess the situation hour by hour. We will have additional and regular updates.
Auto Parts Manufacturers Association President Flavio Volpe told PKBNEWS on Thursday that the U.S. strike could involve a redirection of resources to avoid any major impact.
The UAW strike is very different from previous UAW negotiations.
Instead of going after just one company, the union, led by its new president Shawn Fain, is striking at all three. But not all of the 146,000 UAW members at the company’s factories are protesting on the picket lines, at least not yet.
The UAW targeted a handful of factories to pressure company negotiators to raise their offers, which fell well short of union demands for 36 percent wage increases over four years. GM and Ford offered 20 percent and Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, offered 17.5 percent.
The limited strikes will help preserve the union’s $825 million strike fund, which would run out in about 11 weeks if all workers walk out. Fain said more factories could be added if companies don’t make better offers.
In addition to general wage increases, the union is calling for the reinstatement of cost-of-living wage increases, an end to different wage levels for factory jobs, a 32-hour week with 40 hours of pay, the reinstatement of defined traditional salaries. benefit from pensions for new hires who now only benefit from 401(k) retirement plans, pension increases for retirees and other items.
Starting in 2007, workers waived cost-of-living increases and defined-benefit pensions for new hires. Wage tiers were created as the UAW attempted to help businesses avoid financial distress before and during the Great Recession. Despite this, only Ford avoided government-funded bankruptcy protection.
Automakers say they are facing unprecedented demands as they develop and build new electric vehicles while making gas-powered cars, SUVs and trucks to pay their bills. They fear that labor costs will rise so much that they will have to sell their cars at a higher price than foreign automakers sell in U.S. factories.
GM CEO Mary Barra told workers in a letter Thursday that the company is offering historic wage increases and new vehicle commitments at U.S. factories. GM’s offer, she wrote, “addresses what you have told us is most important to you, despite the fiery rhetoric from UAW leadership.”
On CNBC Thursday, Ford CEO Jim Farley said that if Ford had agreed to the union’s demands, the company would have lost $15 billion over the past decade and gone bankrupt.
It is unclear how long the strike will last, but with each pa*sing day, pressure on both sides will increase.
Jeff Schuster, automotive sector manager for research firm Global Data, said the strike could last longer than previous work stoppages, such as the 40-day strike against GM in 2019.
“In this case, it feels like there’s a lot more risk here on both sides,” he said.
– with files from Sean Previl of PKBNEWS and The Associated Press
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