Union strikes key Canadian seating supplier for FCA, GM
Unifor Local 444 went on strike today. Union members were prepared to strike Thursday night (pictured). Photo credit: Local 444
WINDSOR — Unifor members working at Integram Seating in Windsor rejected a new four-year collective agreement, triggering a strike that could affect production at Fiat Chrysler and General Motors assembly plants in Ontario.
“We’re on strike,” Unifor Local 444 communications manager Gord Gray told Automotive News Canada moments after the vote today.
The two parties reached a tentative deal at about 6 a.m. Friday, after bargaining was extended past a midnight strike deadline.
The membership voted it down Sunday just before noon by a 58 percent vote.
Integram produces 1,500 seats and 10,000 foam seat parts in Windsor every day. Both FCA and GM rely heavily on the auto supplier so a work stoppage will likely halt production at FCA’s Windsor assembly plant and GM’s CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont.
Both rely on just-in-time delivery of the seats and parts.
FCA builds the Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Caravan minivans at the Windsor factory, while GM assembles the Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain at the CAMI plant.
The two plants produce a combined 2,500 vehicles each day.
A strike may have differing degrees of consequences at the two assembly plants.
FCA will idle its minivan assembly plant in Windsor, Ont., beginning Monday, union officials there said, because of a parts shortage.
So, seating won’t be needed there if the assembly line isn’t moving.
“This will affect the CAMI plant for General Motors through the buns that are created through the foam division at Integram,” Local 444 President Dino Chiodo said in a live interview streamed on the Windsor Star’s Facebook page after the vote.
About 730 of the 1,000 employees cast ballots Sunday.
At the outset of negotiations, Unifor said the sticking points were monetary.
Because Integram builds two portions of seats, the framework and the foam seating, the operation is a blended one, consisting of Tier 1 and Tier 2 supply work.
The Tier 1 work pays more than the Tier 2 work.
Unifor tried to get “a blended wage” to account for that and both make “basically the same rate,” Chiodo said.
“People believe they should all be making the same rate. People are frustrated they’re on a 10-year grow-in grid,” Chiodo said.
In 2012 contract negotiations, in order to retain the foam work, Unifor agreed to a pay grid grow-in for 300 junior workers on the foam side of the operations.
Those workers were making $17.33 hour but $1.33 of that was deducted as a co-payment for benefits.
During negotiations last week, management agreed to a raise, a lower co-pay of 50 cents per hour and to cap the co-payment at 40 hours, allowing the junior members to take home $17.68 an hour and all their overtime.
Raises included two percent in each of the first two years of the deal, 1.5 percent in the third and 1.75 percent in the fourth.
‘Didn’t feel the same’
“We had a lot of good things to present to our membership,” Chiodo said. “Unfortunately, they didn’t feel the same as the bargaining committee.”
The workers also would have received a $1,000 signing bonus and a number of corrections and improvements on benefits.
Chiodo told reporters picket lines had already formed at Intergram Seating before noon Sunday.
“We need to do our best to go back to the table and figure out how we make necessary improvements,” he said. “We will set up meetings as soon as we can.”