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Unifor's 'unique' Ford deal includes 5 new electric vehicles in Oakville, engine for Windsor plants

Source: CBC

The union that represents Canadian autoworkers has announced a tentative deal with Ford Motor Co. that checks many of the boxes members were hoping for -- including fresh products for waning factories in Ontario. 

Unifor president Jerry Dias could hardly contain his excitement as he announced a tentative three-year deal, which included $1.98-billion of investments that will go "predominantly" to Ford's assembly plant in Oakville and Windsor's two Ford engine assembly plants.

"This is a major commitment from Ford Motor Company -- huge," Dias told reporters during a news conference on Tuesday. 

"You don't make that type of commitment and make a minor splash and move on. This is going to be key facilities for Ford ... a decades-long commitment."

Dias said the agreement, which is subject to a Sunday night ratification vote by members, includes five models of electric vehicles for the Ford Oakville plant.

A statement from Ford said that the company would not discuss specifics of the agreement until it has been ratified. 

That will take a $1.8-billion investment to retool the factory, which "will leave the plant down for some time," Dias said.

'We hit a home run'

That work is expected to begin in 2024 with the first of five electric vehicles rolling off the line in 2025 and the fifth, off the line by 2028. The union also secured the assembly of batteries that will go into these vehicles. 

"As we know when I selected Ford to be the target, that we had no product for the Ford assembly plant as the Edge would come to the end of its production schedule," Dias said. 

"So we were determined that we solidified a product for our Oakville plant.... We hit a home run."

Production of the Ford Edge and Lincoln Nautilus SUVs ends at the plant in 2023.

Currently, the Oakville factory employs about 3,400 workers with about 1,200 workers who have been there less than six years, Dias said. 

"I stand here with confidence saying that once the plant is retooled, I believe, and I say this with conviction, that our members should be able to retire with their pension from Ford Motor Company," he said. 

"Young people can sit back and say, 'With this announcement, I can buy a house. I can plan a future, can plan a family.'"

Dias was adamant that Ford's commitments were long-term, ensuring decades of Canadian labour in Ontario. 

"Today's announcement is unique and different because it's about young people," he said. 

Windsor's factory will see a 6.8 L engine, which Dias said will "stabilize employment and create new opportunities." He said the company has identified the engine facilities as "key" factories needed in the long-term.

"Am I pleased with the outcome? The answer is absolutely yes. The details of the contract ... certainly meets the objectives of our members," Dias said. 

After settling a deal with Ford, the union will go on to negotiate with Fiat Chrysler and then General Motors. 

Top of mind for Dias is the elimination of the third shift at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Windsor Assembly Plant, which was cut this past spring. 

Today's news comes after Unifor extended a Sept. 21, 11:59 p.m. strike deadline Monday. The union chose Ford as a potential strike target on Sept. 8.

Unifor went on a month-long strike in 2017 at a GM plant that makes the Chevrolet Equinox small SUV. The union wanted to be named the lead producer of the SUV, which also is made in Mexico. While Unifor didn't get that, the union said it won provisions giving added benefits to workers who are near retirement if the plant closes, production moves or a shift is ended.

The union also fought with GM last year over plans to stop auto production at a factory in Oshawa, Ont.

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