BRAMPTON, Ontario—A strike deadline in negotiations between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Unifor has been set for Oct. 14 at 11:59 p.m. EDT, according to union chief Jerry Dias.
The negotiations cover FCA's Brampton and Windsor assembly plants in Ontario, which typically combine to build more than 500,000 vehicles annually, as well as a casting plant in Toronto. Talks between Unifor and FCA follow those between the union and Ford Motor Co., which ended after a three-year contract was ratified with 81 percent support from voting workers.
The negotiations affect about 9,000 hourly workers, according to Unifor.
Dias said it remained "awfully early" in talks to draw any conclusions about how they might go. Bargaining between the company and union formally resumed this week in Toronto after being put on pause for the Ford talks.
"We're spending a lot of time on the local issues," Dias told Automotive News Canada Oct. 2. "FCA has yet to tell us that they're accepting the pattern, but they will. They understand the way the system works, so I don't think that'll be a problem. My preoccupation is about product and stability. We've got everybody working right now, to say the least."
FCA, in a statement released Oct. 2, said: "FCA Canada welcomes the opportunity to move our discussions with Unifor forward. We are committed to reaching an agreement that will allow us to continue investing in our future and create opportunities for our employees, their families and the communities where we live and work."
Unifor is looking to secure at least one new product for assembly at the Windsor plant, which builds the Chrysler Pacifica, Voyager and Grand Caravan minivans. The third shift at the Windsor plant was cut earlier this year amid declining sales in the segment, costing about 1,500 workers their jobs.
The union also seeks clarity on the future of the Brampton plant, which builds the Dodge Charger, Dodge Challenger and Chrysler 300. The Charger and Challenger are believed to be solidly profitable vehicles for FCA. But they're based on aging platforms, and the union has said it remains unclear what the long-term plans for the plant are.
Unifor seeks to pattern the FCA deal, as well as an eventual contract with General Motors, off of the one it recently secured with Ford. The three-year Ford contract includes raises, bonuses and a two-year reduction in the wage grow-in period for new hires. Ford also committed to invest nearly $1.5 billion in its Canadian facilities, mostly for a retooling of its Oakville, Ontario, plant beginning in 2024 to build electric vehicles.
If no tentative deal is reached by the Oct. 14 deadline, FCA workers represented by Unifor could go on strike, halting production of all of the company's vehicles built in Canada.
The Windsor plant built 287,854 minivans in 2019, while the Brampton plant assembled 222,870 cars, according to the Automotive News Data Center. Production at both plants this year through August was down more than 30 percent from a year earlier due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down North American vehicle production for about two months.
FCA said late last month that it would idle the Windsor plant for three weeks starting Sept. 28 to "better align with market demand."