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Canadian Auto Workers Want Pre-Vote Look at Next Labor Pacts

Unifor workers petition for time to review the deals in detail this autumn.
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Bullet points won’t be enough this time.

Members of Canada’s Unifor union say they want to see the fine print, not just a summary, before their next labor contracts with General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles come up for a vote this autumn.

The current three-year pacts cover roughly 17,000 Canadian auto workers and expire on Sept. 21. As usual, members are especially concerned about wages and job security.

Pioneering Pacts

But this year’s round of negotiations carries special significance. The deals that result will be the first made under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement that took effect two months ago. (The United Auto Workers union negotiated its latest contracts a year ago.)

USMCA, which replaces the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, adds new rules about wages and local content. In theory, at least, those revisions should steer more jobs to Canada and the U.S.

Unifor members normally get a one-page summary of a tentative new contract literally minutes before they are invited to ask questions about it and then vote.

Details, Details

This time, 1,400 Unifor members have petitioned Unifor President Jerry Dias to show them the actual agreement five days ahead of time. They want to see the entire pact with all revisions, additions and deletions clearly indicated.

They also demand a tally that details the money and benefits going to workers and to their union.

Petition organizers emphasize that the petition is not an attack on Unifor leadership. “This is an exercise in achieving our democratic rights,” laid-off General Motors worker Rebecca Keetch tells Automotive News Canada. “I think that a pretty important component to democracy is being able to make an informed decision.”

The petitioners note that UAW members routinely provides its members with just such detail in contract drafts known as “white books.”

Bottom Line

But do Unifor members truly want to see everything about their contracts? Perhaps not. The UAW white book for last year’s agreement with GM ran 351 pages.

President Dias says he’ll leave it up to union negotiators and local officials to decide whether to dish up the details or not. His focus, ANC reports, will be on the big picture. Declares Dias, “I don’t chase mice when I’m hunting elephants.”

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