The union representing Canadian autoworkers at Ford has put its strike plans there on hold, keeping its more than 5,000 members on the job at three plants there and providing some good news for an industry dealing with unprecedented labor disruptions.
According to an update posted on the union site: “Unifor is extending negotiations with Ford Motor Company for a 24-hour period. The union received a substantive offer from the employer minutes before the deadline and bargaining is continuing throughout the night. Unifor members should continue to maintain strike readiness.”
The contract between Ford and Unifor was set to expire at 11:59 pm ET Monday, four days after US contracts expired between the United Auto Workers union and Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, the automaker that makes vehicles under the Jeep, Ram, Dodge and Chrysler names.
“We will continue to work collaboratively with Unifor to create a blueprint for the automotive industry that supports a vibrant and sustainable future in Canada,” Ford said in a statement.
In a recording for members earlier in the evening Unifor President Lana Payne said the two sides were still far apart.
“We have made progress in important areas,” she said in the 7:30 pm ET recording, but added, “we are not where we need to be on key priority issues.” The union had said besides wages, its major bargaining goals revolved around benefits, particularly pension benefits, as well as job protections as the auto industry plans its transition from traditional gas-powered vehicles to electric vehicles.
Ford is already grappling with a strike by more than 3,000 of its US employees that has shut down a major assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan, since Friday. The UAW decided to go on strike at all unionized US automakers, the first time in its history that it had struck the traditional “Big Three” at the same time. But it decided to strike only one assembly plant at each company, having 12,700 members walk out while most of the 145,000 members at the companies remained on the job.
By contrast, Unifor announced if it goes on strike, it will strike all the Ford facilities where it represents members. But its members will continue to work at the Canadian plants of GM and Stellantis. The union had granted them contract extensions while it focused its negotiations on reaching the best possible deal with Ford.
The issues Unifor is negotiating mirror many of the same issues at the center of the strike by the UAW against Ford as well as GM and Stellantis that began early Friday.
“As some of you will know from experience, a lot can happen in final hours of deadline bargaining,” Payne said in her earlier remarks. “But we know where we stand here. We need Ford to deliver more to meet our members expectations.”
Ford traditionally had the best relations with its unions of any US automaker. It has not had a strike in its Canadian operations since 1990 and has not had a US strike since 1978.
A Canadian strike could be a bigger blow to Ford’s sales than the UAW strike, which is so far is limited to one factory in Michigan in the case of Ford.
The two V-8 engines made in Windsor are the only source of those popular engines used in the the F-150 pickup truck, Ford’s best-selling vehicle, and the Mustang sports car, so production of the V-8 versions of those vehicles at US plants is likely to be halted by the Canadian strike.
The Michigan plant being struck produces the Ford Ranger pickup and the Ford Bronco SUV, which had US sales of 83,000 in the first half of this year. By comparison the V-8 version of the F-series pickup had US sales of 75,000. The V-8 version of the Mustang, which makes up about half of sales of that model, came to another 13,000 vehicles, while the Edge and Nautilus that are only built at the plant in Canada had sales of nearly 60,000.