FCA, Unifor reach tentative deal at 11th hour to avoid strike in Canada

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Unifor on Wednesday night agreed to a tentative labor contract, averting a strike with minutes to go.

A news conference with Unifor President Jerry Dias is scheduled for 10 a.m. ET Thursday. The union provided no  details about the agreement, including its length, but said it would provide “more information” at the news conference.

The company confirmed the tentative agreement. “FCA Canada confirms that the Company has reached a tentative agreement with Unifor on a new contract,” an FCA Canada statement said. “Further details will be provided at a later date.”

The contract needs to be ratified by unionized FCA Canada workers in order to take effect. Virtual ratification votes will begin on Sunday. Unifor represents about 8,400 FCA workers, according to the automaker.

In the talks, Unifor sought new production for the FCA Windsor, Ont., minivan plant and Brampton, Ont., assembly plant.

FCA recently cut the third shift in Windsor amid slumping sales in the minivan segment, costing about 1,500 workers their jobs. The union wants at least one new product to build alongside the minivans to potentially bring some of those jobs back. The plant currently assembles the Chrysler Pacifica and Voyager minivans, as well as the Chrysler Grand Caravan for the Canadian market.

The tentative contract also covers workers at the FCA Brampton plant, which assembles the Chrysler 300 sedan and Dodge Charger and Challenger muscle cars, as well as a casting plant in Toronto. The Brampton plant has been the subject of speculation in recent years due to the aging platform its muscle cars are built on, though the Charger and Challenger are believed to be highly profitable vehicles.

The agreement also covers fire and security workers at the Windsor plant and about 60 office and clerical workers, according to the union.

The deal follows the ratification of a new three-year contract with Ford Motor Co. in September. The Ford deal included a commitment from the company to invest about $1.5 billion in its Oakville, Ont., plant to build electric vehicles starting in 2026, along with various raises, bonuses and a reduction in the wage grow-in period for new hires.

It also included a new “alternative work schedule,” a concession from the union that Ford touted as a way to make production in Canada more flexible.

Should workers ratify the tentative contract with FCA, Unifor would then begin negotiations with General Motors.

The GM contract covers workers at an engine and transmission plant in St. Catharines, Ont., as well as the company’s new aftermarket parts operation at its former assembly plant in Oshawa, Ont. GM’s CAMI Assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont., operates with a separate contract that expires in 2021.

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