Contract talks between Canadian autoworkers, Ford face midnight deadline

A Ford Edge SUV is shown on the production line at Ford Motor Company's Oakville, Ontario, Assembly Complex. The company and the Canadian union Unifor are negotiating on a new contract to prevent a possible walkout at 11:59 p.m. Monday. File Photo courtesy Ford Motor Co.

Sept. 18 (UPI) -- The union representing workers at the Detroit Three auto companies in Canada said Monday that talks aimed a preventing a potential strike at midnight have progressed but that the sides are still "far apart."

Unifor, which represents nearly 20,000 workers at Canadian plants owned by Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Stellantis, said in an update to members that while there were some signs of movement, there is still a long way to go to prevent a possible walkout when the existing contract expires at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

"Talks have continued to progress since Unifor's last information session at both master and local tables," the union said. "However, at this late stage in the negotiations, the union and the company remain far apart."

Negotiators are talking with Ford as the target company for a "pattern" contract covering all three automakers -- the existing contract has been temporarily extended for General Motors and Stellantis in Canada.

"As the deadline approaches, Unifor members at Ford Motor Company are advised to be prepared for all scenarios, including strike action," the union said. "All Unifor members are required to report for their regularly scheduled shift unless otherwise directed by union officials."

If no agreement is reached by 11:59 p.m., Unifor members working at Ford plants "will be in a legal strike position."

The Canadian deadline approached as Unifor's American counterparts, the United Auto Workers, are already on strike against the Detroit Three in the United States, where 13,000 autoworkers walked off the job last week.

The UAW's action was met with support by the Canadian group.

"Our own union's bargaining teams at Ford, GM and Stellantis recognize that the current negotiations are taking place at a time where working people are seeking the strong pensions, fair wages and job security they all deserve," Unifor National President Lana Payne said in a letter sent to UAW leaders. "We support you in achieving a contract that meets these objectives for your members."

Unifor members in August voted overwhelmingly to authorize a possible strike at the three automakers.

On Thursday, Payne characterized the status of talks with Ford as "making progress in certain areas," but added, "we are meeting resistance from Ford on priority issues for our members."

Each of the two economic offers made by the company so far have been rejected, she said.

"That should tell you that those offers did not come close to meeting our expectations," she said, emphasizing Unifor's key demands remain pension improvements, wage package improvements, electric vehicle transition supports and plant investments.

Ford announced in April it will invest $1.3 billion into its Oakville, Ontario, assembly complex to transform it into "a high-volume hub of electric vehicle manufacturing" in Canada as part of its efforts to scale up production of electric vehicles.