GM Chair Report

GM Chair Report December  2016

 December 8th 2016


Heading into the Christmas season there has been a lot of uncertainty regarding layoffs. The Company had informed the Union as recently as November 30th that there would be no layoffs in any area prior to Christmas due to strong volumes across the plant. In addition, the Gen V assembly has picked up four (4) shifts of overtime prior to Christmas. One week later, the company in typical fashion, without any regard for their employees, and no prior notice given to the Union, decided to take volume out of the GF6 prior to Christmas. The Agile Block is slated to cease production on January 23rd, 2017.


Our newest members have been experiencing the pain of General Motors’ incompetence as it pertains to their pay. In a dispute regarding the new hires’ COLA entitlement, the Union had to take the Company to task and fight for a resolution. The Company then took retaliatory measures and withheld their pay increase and conversion to A1 status until it was resolved. In the end, this has compounded the pain and delayed the pay they were rightly entitled to. Then to add insult to injury, the Company clawed back the vacation pay all at once after telling them they were going to take $50 per week. All vacation pay claw backs should be completed this coming pay period and all DCCP adjustments (including the companys’ failure to contribute their share of the optional DCCP contribution) must be completed by the end of the year. Your DCPP contributions are ahead of the companys’ contributions by one week creating a lag before you will see the company’s’ contribution. If you chose the optional contribution, the adjustments should also be made this pay period. The Union has been in contact with the President of GM Canada and very clearly stated our expectation that the person(s) responsible for this screw up should be FIRED! Furthermore, it seems GM wants to renege on the team leader pay promised at negotiations and this is being disputed at the National level.


There are a number of members retiring in the next few months and we would like to take this opportunity to congratulate them and wish them a long, healthy and happy retirement. These retirements will create manpower movement so we strongly suggest that you submit transfers to the areas you would like to work. Employees will be entitled to four (4) transfer opportunities between divisions, departments, or groups within a twelve (12) month period, beginning with the fourth (4th) Monday of every January. If you have submitted transfers in the past, please be advised that all transfers will become null and void in January and must be resubmitted. We will keep you apprised of the dates.


The HFV6 was reduced to two (2) shifts and due to the amount of equipment being refurbished, retrofitted or replaced, it would be impossible to run three (3) shifts during this process. St Catharines will be the final facility building this product. This will match customer demand for V6 production. The anticipated return of the 3rd shift is mid-2017.


Upon entering negotiations, it was obvious General Motors was content to force a strike so they could send a message. When the Company takes us on strike, their shares tend to go up because they prove to their investors that they are taking a stand against the Union and a harder stand in the mind of the shareholders equates to more money in their pockets. Their plan was to pick off one plant from each company putting us in weaker position in 2020 because it is in their interest to foster division. Among the Detroit 3 not a single plant was lost. The critics in the plant understate the achievements of keeping all the Canadian plants open. Don’t buy into the negativity that splits the membership and pits one worker against another. This set of negotiations was about sticking together to ensure everyone’s’ facilities stayed open and securing the Canadian automotive manufacturing footprint. If we don’t stick together, the company’s policy of division will succeed and they will pick us off one at a time and in a short time there won’t be anyone left. Everyone knows GM doesn’t respect their workforce and anything the union didn’t achieve wasn’t for lack of trying, it was because GM wouldn’t give it to you.

A dishonorable mention has to go to the UAW as they are part of the reason we are in this predicament. Much has been said about the great contract the UAW negotiated. This is all a matter of perspective. If you were a full time GM worker in the US, the UAW took care of you but what is conveniently overlooked is that they sold their future workforce down the river. They have a permanent temporary workforce that will grow to 22,000 workers by the end of their contract. They have not and will not hire any full time production employees for the life of their agreement. We have heard that same sentiment here. We had people actually state to our faces “F**K the SWEs.” The bargaining committee did not take the position of the UAW of selling out the future for part time jobs. We believed that we needed to get our SWEs hired and get them on a progression to full wages and benefits, contrary to the company’s intentions.



With recognition of a $2.3B shortfall in the pension plan, and the government’s dismal record in forcing companies to live up to their pension obligations after they’ve left the country (e.g. Massey, Stelco, Caterpillar, Algoma, John Deere) and given a choice between a fully funded pension plan or a small pension increase it was decided that it was better to have a pension plan that is 100% funded for the first time in recent history. We are well aware of the sacrifices of our retirees and with the pension plan fully funded by the end of the agreement it will make it more achievable to negotiate increases in future contracts. Finally, there is also a misconception that this was a pension contract and we have to wait another two sets of negotiations before any gains can be made. Although this was true in the past, pensions are discussed at every set of negotiations.


On Sept. 7th the Company made their first formal offer which included their intent to maintain the 2012 wage progression for the former SWEs (meaning NO wage increases for 3 years). They also discussed: “Restructuring Incentives” (Doc 12s), “Retention Incentives” (pay to stay) as well as “Relocation Incentives”, which indicated an Oshawa closure and the moving of as many Oshawa people as possible to St. Catharines (displacing all our former SWEs). There was no commitment to product and there would be no discussion on allocation of product until after the contract was settled and their demands were met, some of which included, line side delivery, a commitment to be able to use temporary workers as they saw fit, on site suppliers, etc.

About a week and a half before the deadline, the Manufacturing Manager for North America showed up and everything changed and it was back to square one. All progress that had been made was derailed. Now everything was about what we were willing to give. The proposed incentives of $35K came with a huge price tag! In St Catharines they wanted a 25% permanent second tier “ELW” (Entry Level Worker) exclusively populating the 3rd shift of V8 and V6, almost all of Material Handling and all Shipping & Receiving, Chemical Control, Oilers, Inspection, Lab Analyst, Non-Product Delivery & Receiving, Quality Team Members, Spares, Water Spiders/Floor Walkers, Kitting and Yard Drivers. That was almost 400 permanent temporary jobs for a $35K incentive. There was no way we could even contemplate doing that. For the 3rd contract in a row the driver’s group has been preserved.

Our counter proposal included an incentive of $35K for our retiring members (without trading jobs) that would save hundreds of millions over the life of the agreement. Their answer was that they were not interested unless we were willing to trade jobs for money. The Bargaining Committee then had to make some difficult decisions. Do we sell almost 400 jobs down the river for a paltry $35K incentive? Do we screw Oshawa and tell them they’re on their own and get a large number of them in our facility and let all of our SWEs be displaced and out of a job? We decided it was better to keep both facilities open and not sell jobs for a pittance.

In the old days the adage was “under promise and over deliver”. We didn’t believe in that approach. We raised expectations and we went after more. We informed our members that’s what we were going to do. In the history of automotive bargaining, no committee ever came back with everything they had on the table. If we don’t raise expectations and we don’t ask for more then we will always settle for less than we should. In closing we are dealing with a global corporation that can move production and capital at will. A tactical error in negotiations could render our communities unrecognizable. Looking at the struggles our young people have trying to find a job that pays what they are being paid here makes these fights all the more important. Armchair quarterbacks can nitpick anything. If we got $1 we should have gotten $2, if we got $2 we should have gotten $3. Anyone can criticize, few get in the arena and fight, and instead they kick and complain about the people actually fighting for them and not the company. Everyone has a right to voice their opinion but it is the Bargaining Committee’s job to make sure that we have jobs. The Bargaining Committee succeeded in securing our futures. Please consider tuning out the experts who have never negotiated and add nothing but negativity to the discussion. Without a strong union we can’t make the progress that our members deserve.

In solidarity,

Tim McKinnon – GM Unit Chairperson,
On behalf of the GM Bargaining Committee
Brian Chemnitz, Paul Dortono, Doug Wark, Larry Burkley, John Rakich
UNIFOR Local 199