GM rejects ‘pattern’ deal, talks break down and unionized GM workers walk off the job


Published October 10, 2023 at 9:57 am

GM Oshawa strike

General Motors believe their negotiators have made “positive progress.” The Unifor bargaining team missed their Thanksgiving dinner to try and reach a deal before the Monday midnight deadline.

The end result, however, is that both sides have served up a turkey, with nearly 4,300 auto workers – most working at the Oshawa Assembly Plant – now on strike after the two sides failed to hammer out an agreement.

The breakdown in talks comes after Unifor ratified a new three-year contract with Ford last month – without strike action – that offered wage increases of up to 25 per cent to more than 5,600 workers at its Canadian facilities.

The agreement was far from unanimous, with just 54 per cent of Ford’s unionized workers voting ‘yes’ to the new collective agreement, but the deal set a ‘pattern’ the union hoped would make for smooth contract negotiations at GM.

Not so much, said Unifor President Lana Payne, who said the company “continues to fall short” in its negotiating.

Payne blamed the strike on GM Canada’s “unwillingness” to agree on the union’s pattern-bargaining demands on pensions and other income supports for retirees. She said there are also unresolved differences when it comes to making sure temporary part-time workers are given a clear path to permanent, full-time jobs.

GM Canada, while “disappointed” there was no deal reached, is still hopeful a new collective agreement can be achieved.

“We remain at the bargaining table and are committed to keep working with Unifor to reach an agreement that is fair and flexible for our 4,200 represented employees at Oshawa Assembly & Operations, St. Catharines Propulsion Plant, and Woodstock Parts Distribution Centre.”

“Fair and flexible” are highly subjective terms – especially in contract n negotiations – and Payne made it clear the contract talk can only end one way: with This dispute can only end one way: with GM agreeing to the same terms as Ford.

“This strike is about General Motors stubbornly refusing to meet the pattern agreement,” said Payne. “The company knows our members will never let GM break our pattern – not today – not ever.”

The strike includes Unifor members from Locals 222. 199 and 636 at Oshawa Assembly and its CCA Stamped Products division; the St. Catharines Powertrain Plant and the Woodstock Parts Distribution Centre. Local 88 members at the CAMI Assembly Plant in Ingersoll, Ontario are covered by a separate collective agreement and will continue working.

The strike has already extended to some feeder operations, including TFT Global, GM’s part movers and warehouse people who are based inside GM’s site, with employee Tim Beaven calling the GM contract team “nincompoop negotiators.”

“I’m deeply disappointed that GM have broken the pattern negotiation style of the past and created a completely unnecessary strike. If the deal was good enough for Ford, why should GM expect to get away with a lesser deal?”

Payne agreed, saying the union “cannot and will not” settle for less than pattern.

The union leader added that the decision to strike “was not taken lightly.’

“After working throughout the Thanksgiving weekend and into the final hours before the deadline, General Motors made it clear that they would not agree to meet the conditions of the pattern agreement.

Unifor represents about 18,000 workers at the Canadian facilities of the Detroit Three automakers, which also include Ford and Chrysler parent Stellantis.

In the U.S. about 25,000 United Auto Workers (UAW) union members working for the Detroit Three automakers are on targeted strikes while UAW members at Volvo Group-owned Mack Trucks walked off the job Monday after overwhelmingly rejecting a proposed five-year contract.

INdurham's Editorial Standards and Policies