As the United Auto Workers strike against the Detroit Three automakers entered its 10th day Sunday, Unifor finalized a deal with Ford Motor Co. — one that experts say could set the pace for what to expect in the United States.
Members of Unifor, Canada's autoworker union, ratified a three-year contract with Ford on Sunday, the first deal to be reached since contracts ended for both American and Canadian employees earlier this month.
The deal offers workers raises of more than 19% over the course of the contract, including the single largest negotiated general wage increase in Unifor history. It will help employees reach top-scale pay faster, it will add new investment in the Essex Engine plant in Windsor, and will prevent Ford's three Windsor plants — Essex, Windsor Engine and Oakville Assembly, which stands to become the Oakville Electric Vehicle Complex — from closing over the life of the agreement.
And it is likely that will set the tone for negotiations on the American side of the border as well, experts say.
"I think it puts more pressue on the UAW around realistic deal points that automakers could accept," Daniel Ives, managing director at Wedbush Securities, told The Detroit News on Sunday. "When you look at the new Ford agreement, it's a rational agreement that makes mathematical sense. The UAW is trying to do mathematical gymnastics that just doesn't work out for GM, Ford and Stellantis."
Ives said he expected that negotiations with the UAW would get "nastier before it gets better," but that the Unifor deal sets "a sort of rough outline" for what comes next in the United States.
In the U.S., 41 plants remain on strike. Only one is a Ford plant, after UAW leaders say the company has made progress in talks, while the remaining plants are split between 19 General Motors facilities and 21 Stellantis sites.
Between that and the new Unifor deal, there is a feeling that Ford is so far the most successful of the automakers, said Marick Masters, professor of business at Wayne State University.
Having a deal with Unifor allows the company to "focus quickly on negotiations in the U.S. with the overall picture in North America over the next few years," Masters said. "It may give them more or less degrees of freedom, but it allows them to know with more certainty."
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