Jerry Dias is quick to praise the Detroit Three automakers while at the same time warning that Canadian consumers punish companies when they break promises or abandon operations across the border.
He has recently begun four-year contract talks as president of Unifor that will impact thousands of auto industry workers in this exceptionally uncertain economic environment that included a two-month shutdown related to coronavirus.
Union leaders won't pretend that executives aren't pocketing millions; The burden of industry change must be shared rather than dumped on hourly factory workers, he said.
"I don't see us being bridesmaids and picking up the scraps," said Dias, 61, a former sheet metal worker from Toronto who has led the union for nearly seven years.
Though smaller than the U.S. market, Canada and its consumers are significant, he noted. "Bottom line is, Canadian consumers punish those that don't build here."
Wage talks will heat up in mid-July, and Unifor will select the company that sets the contract pattern for all auto companies by Labor Day.
Like the collective bargaining done by the UAW for an estimated 150,000 autoworkers in the U.S., Unifor negotiates key elements of the contract with one automaker and then that establishes the pattern for the rest as part of collective bargaining process.
No strikes, no promises
Just last year, wage talks with the UAW broke down and led to a 40-day strike against General Motors. After that, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ratified deals without incident.
Unifor hasn't threatened a strike but makes no promises.