Unifor, Fiat Chrysler reach tentative deal moments before strike deadline

With just five minutes to go before the midnight deadline, Unifor, the union representing about 9,750 workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ facilities in Ontario, announced the two sides had reached a tentative agreement.

The union had threatened job action if it could not secure a new deal with the automaker similar to one negotiated with General Motors.

Denise Hammond, director for communications for Unifor said union members were prepared to strike at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

“Our message, however, is clear,” she said. “Without the pattern agreement, there will be a strike.”

Unifor and Fiat Chrysler have been at the negotiating table throughout the Thanksgiving weekend.

At a briefing earlier in the evening, Hammond said the union still had issues with the contract and was preparing to set up picket lines.

The union traditionally works out an agreement with one of the Detroit Three automakers and then uses that as a pattern in its negotiations with the remaining two companies. Unifor picked General Motors as its first negotiating target, and the two sides reached a deal that was ratified in late September.

In a tweet sent Monday, Unifor national president Jerry Dias reiterated the union’s main demand throughout its contract talks with the Detroit Three — the need for investment in the companies’ Canadian operations.

Fiat Chrysler builds the Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans at its Windsor, Ont., assembly plant, which has received nearly $3 billion in recent investments. The Automotive News says the company has about 70 days’ supply on hand of the Pacifica minivan, enough to get through a short work stoppage.

The union was looking for the company to invest in its Brampton, Ont., assembly plant, which makes the Chrysler 300, Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger, and its Etobicoke, Ont., parts plant.

Unifor’s deal with GM includes a two per cent wage increase this year and another two per cent increase in September, 2019. There is also a $6,000 signing bonus plus lump sum bonuses of $2,000 in each of the next three years to most employees. 

However, the Automotive News has reported that Fiat Chrysler has balked at the economic terms of the deal Unifor reached with GM.

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