GM Chair Report August 2016
August 3, 2016
Collective Bargaining 101
For many of our members, especially those just entering the workforce or those of you who have not worked in a unionized environment, the mere mention of “contract negotiations” may seem overwhelming. To help alleviate some of the uncertainty we, the Union Leadership thought this would be a good time to review the collective bargaining process and explain some of the terminology that is used. Our contract consists of several components. There are the Master and Local agreements, as well as five other agreements covering health care benefits, insurance, pensions etc. All will be re-negotiated this year. Our current contract which was a 4-year agreement expires on September 19th 2016 atmidnight. At this point if we have not negotiated an agreement we can legally go on strike. However, this date can be extended if progress is being made at the bargaining table, or if the Union has selected a different Target company to negotiate with. Bargaining Demands
The bargaining process begins with membership participation in the form of demand sheets. A few months ago, our members were asked to submit their suggestions and prioritize them for 2016 negotiations. It is important for the Bargaining Committee to know what is important to you so we can negotiate the best possible agreement that reflects the needs of the membership. The Bargaining Committee created a list of bargaining demands which was sent to the National Union. The National Union reviewed the demands from all locations and divided them into either Local or Master demands. We also reserve the right to add or remove demands until very late in the process.
The National Union will pick the Target Company they want to bargain with first. There is always speculation leading up to negotiations as to which company will be the target. It could be Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), or G.M. At this moment in time no one knows who the target company will be. Ultimately, it is Jerry Dias, the President of the National Union who will pick the target. He will consider many factors such as; the financial situation of the company, vehicle sales and the relationship they have with the Union. On Labour Day, Jerry will pick the company he thinks he can negotiate the best pattern agreement with and announce the target company on Tuesday, September 6, 2016.
Prior to picking the target Company, the Union will call for a strike authorization vote. Basically, the Union is asking you to tell the company they have the support of the members at the bargaining table. A strong strike authorization strengthens the Unions power at the bargaining table. It sends a clear message to the Company that the Union has the backing of the membership and that they support the Bargaining Committee. Without a strong show of support, the Company has no reason to negotiate improvements. Members are simply being asked if they are willing to go on strike if an agreement cannot be reached. However, you should know a strike authorization vote does not necessarily mean that we will go on strike.
This year the strike vote will take place Sunday, August 28th at 11:00 am at the Merritton Community Centre. (Please note: It is a myth that if you do not vote, it’s an automatic yes for a strike mandate or acceptance of the contract. This is NOT true.) We count the votes received and calculate the strike mandate as a percentage of the votes received. Votes will take place across Ontario at all locations.
The National Union and Local Bargaining Committees will meet with the Company to negotiate an agreement. This process goes on for several weeks and in some cases months. When the Union negotiates an agreement with the target company it is called a Tentative Agreement. The reason it is called a Tentative Agreement is because it needs to be presented, explained to the membership and voted on by the membership.
Once a tentative agreement is negotiated, a ratification meeting is called. At the ratification meeting, the Master Bargaining Committee will provide a highlight brochure that will cover all the main points of the agreement. The members are encouraged to ask questions about the terms and conditions of the new contract. At the end of the ratification meeting, members vote to accept the agreement or vote to turn it down. If the members vote in favour of the agreement it is “Ratified”, if not the Union goes back the bargaining table. (Reminder… you must be there and vote or your ballot is null and void.
If negotiations stall and an agreement cannot be reached, the National Union can call a strike. Both the Company and the Union will work very hard to prevent this from happening. The good news is that 98% of all contract negotiations are settled without a strike. If on the other hand we do go on strike, to offset the loss in income all members who sign up for strike duties will receive strike pay from the Union of $250.00 per week. Strike duties can be for a variety of things such as; picketing at a certain location, administration, making signs, etc. Note: Our new members are dues paying members and will not be allowed to cross the picket line. It’s your future we are fighting for. You will stand with your brothers and sisters! A5 / SWEs will not be fired for not crossing the picket line!
Once a contract has been negotiated with the target company and a settlement has been reached, the National Union will then select the second company to negotiate with. The expectation will be to have all three companies accept the pattern contract negotiated with the first company. This process is called Pattern Bargaining.
Over the years, the process has pretty much been the same. How well we do at the bargaining table depends on several factors. Solidarity amongst the members and their willingness to go on strike, market share, capacity, public demand, company profits, exchange rates, and the list goes on. This round of bargaining is really about the future of the auto industry in Canada. Automakers who have a long history in Canada are investing in other countries and we need to make sure investments are made in Canada. The reality is that your future depends upon it.
A critical factor is how well the Union is prepared and who is doing the negotiating on your behalf.
We have and will continue to have discussions with other GM locations as well as Ford and FCA to be prepared to take on the issues that are important to our members. Unifor has set its Master negotiating priorities for upcoming contract talks with Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). At a Master meeting in London in June, delegates to the Unifor Auto Council voted unanimously to make new investments in Canada, including new product allocations the top priority of the talks. The number one priority will be maintaining and expanding the footprint of the industry in Canada. This includes calling for each company to commit to bringing new products to Canada and to make specific investment mandates for Canadian assembly and powertrain operations. Priorities will also include improvements in “key” areas such as wages and new hire provisions for SWEs are also going to be priorities in Master contract negotiations.
Your Local Unions’ Bargaining Committees’ main goals are new work for the future, new hires to become A1 status employees with all the benefits, enhancements for our retirees and incentives for senior workers who want to retire. There is a long list of local issues that also need to be addressed.
In order to get cash infusion into the company, we have made numerous sacrifices. As negotiations approach, we are in a much different situation than 4 years ago. With the subsequent restructuring, the company is once again very profitable. They are paying off government loans, paying dividends, seeing stock values increase and auto sales rebound. The good news is that today, there is widespread recognition among Canadian politicians that the automotive industry is on the brink of extinction without government support. The current political environment in Canada and Ontario pales in comparison to just a few years ago. Both levels of Government have talked about the need for more robust partnerships between government and the automotive industry.
As we get closer to the deadline, the press coverage will increase and the rumours will be circulating. We understand it is a stressful time for you all, especially new members. We also know it is vital to keep our members informed as we go through the bargaining process. Over the past two months, we have handed out three leaflets called “Just the Facts” which are information leaflets about negotiations. These leaflets are also posted on the Local union new website and a notification will be emailed out when they are posted. The frequency of the leaflets will increase over the next few months. For tech savvy members using social media the official hashtag (#) is #AUTOTALKS16
With three plants facing closure, one at each of the Detroit 3 companies, Unifor and its workers are in for a fight! There will be numerous rumours during this process. Don’t get caught up in the BS! We the Union need to stand together!
It’s important that you keep working, producing high quality parts and don’t let all the rumours get you down. Show the company you support the Union by attending the strike mandate meeting on August 28th and let your Bargaining Committee do their job.
Tim McKinnon, GM Unit Chairperson
On Behalf of the Bargaining Committee
Brian Chemnitz, Paul Dortono, Doug Wark, Larry Burkley, John Rakich
UNIFOR Local 199