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Canada’s Auto Union Names Fiat Chrysler Next Target for Talks

September 22, 2016

Inside Car Dealerships Ahead of Motor Vehicle Sales FiguresInside Car Dealerships Ahead of Motor Vehicle Sales Figures
A Fiat dealership.Photograph by Bloomberg via Getty Images

Canada’s main autoworkers’ union, Unifor, said on Thursday that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was its next target in negotiations, after securing a tentative deal with General Motors earlier this week.

The Canadian union uses pattern bargaining, in which the first deal it reaches with one of the country’s three big unionized automakers sets a template the other two are expected to follow.

After securing increased investment in Canadian plants from GM (GM), Unifor will ask Fiat Chrysler to upgrade a paint shop at a Brampton, Ontario plant, among other demands. Unifor said it represents 9,750 Fiat Chrysler manufacturing workers in Canada.

Unifor president Jerry Dias has turned bargaining with GM, Fiat Chrysler, and Ford Motor into a campaign for the future of Canada’s once-thriving auto industry. The union made concessions to GM on pensions in exchange for new Canadian investments.

“We have one simple message for all the Detroit Three automakers: there will be no deal without commitments to new investments in Canada,” Dias said in a statement.

FCA would not comment specifically on the talks but said in a statement it would go into the negotiations with “a long-standing history of working collaboratively with Unifor.”

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Nearly 4,000 Unifor members from GM are scheduled to vote Sunday on a tentative deal with the company that the union says would secure “hundreds of millions of dollars” of new investment, keeping open the automaker’s Oshawa facility and bringing some engine assembly from Mexico to a second plant.

“If members support the recommendation and approve the new four year collective agreement, we will shift our focus and immediately resume negotiations with FCA,” Dias said.

Fiat Chrysler would benefit from the union’s agreement with GM, where Unifor agreed to a pure defined-contribution plan for new workers. Veteran employees have defined-benefit pensions and those hired since 2012 have a hybrid plan.

Talks are expected to be easier with Fiat Chrysler than with GM, where a deal was reached with Unifor just minutes before a Sept. 19 strike deadline, industry analysts say.

Unlike GM, which was reducing the workforce at its Oshawa plant, which makes poor-selling sedans, Fiat Chrysler has invested C$3.7 billion and created 1,200 jobs in Canada since September 2014 to develop and produce its Pacifica hybrid minivan.

“GM was the toughest,” said Arthur Schwartz, a former GM negotiator. “Chrysler would not take a strike in Canada because of the minivans.