‘Excitement,’ ‘uncertainty,’ ‘anxiety’; Future for workers at Brampton’s auto plant pending as Unifor begins negotiations

‘Excitement,’ ‘uncertainty,’ ‘anxiety’; Future for workers at Brampton’s auto plant pending as Unifor begins negotiations

On August 10, Lana Payne, National President of Unifor, announced the company has officially begun negotiations with the Detroit Big Three, which includes auto companies General Motors, Stellantis and Ford.

All three companies are in the midst of significant transitions to produce electric vehicles as climate change continues to put pressure on society to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The transition has created significant challenges for workers in the sector as the foundations of the industry shift beneath their feet. Payne says the union is looking to find some stability in the transition. 

“We are seeking a three year agreement,” Payne said. She insisted that electric vehicle jobs should be met with “the same rights and employment terms as auto workers enjoy today.”  

The societal shift away from gas-powered engines to electric has seen Stellantis attempting to quickly adapt to a future that could see a large part of its auto-business become obsolete. It has triggered massive changes to the company’s business model, and will see major alterations to the Brampton and Windsor assembly plants. On May 2, 2022, Stellantis announced that production of the existing L-series vehicles, which include the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger, will end at the Brampton Assembly plant as the company retools the facility for EV production in 2024. The Brampton Assembly is one of the city’s largest employers. The plant expects to resume production in 2025, with its new architecture aimed at supporting the company's electrification plans.


Lana Payne (centre) the National President of Unifor delivers remarks during the opening of contract negotiations with the Detroit Big Three automakers last week.



Stellantis sales for the Charger model—the main muscle car that comes from the Brampton plant—were at 80,365 in 2022 in the U.S. This was a climb from their 2020 sales, which were at 77,425, but still lower than the 96,935 sales made in the U.S. in 2019. Similarly, the U.S. sales of its Challenger, another leading product out of Brampton’s plant, saw 55,245 U.S. sales in 2022—an increase from the 52,955 sold in the U.S. in 2020, but still lower than the 60,997 sales the Challenger had in the U.S. in 2019. 

In 2021, the Charger made 1,924 sales in Canada, and the Challenger made 1,563.

In a statement posted on August 10, Stellantis highlighted how the company has announced investments of $8.6 billion in Canada over the last 18 months. While the Brampton plant will remain an integral part of the transition to electrification, the future of the muscle cars, and the workers who build them, is still unclear. 

During her announcement last week, Payne said that the union “will be looking for ways to expand the investment footprint in Canada, as well as to clarify details on product programs and timelines coming into our plants.” She said she presented “a very extensive list” of proposals to the Detroit Big Three, but that the details will remain with the master bargaining committee at this time.


Workers who assemble the Dodge Charger in Brampton are uncertain what the future holds for them when the Stellantis plant in Brampton ceases manufacturing these cars at the end of this year.



According to Stellantis, the company expects to add “more than 3,000 new jobs and an anticipated return of the third shift at its Windsor and Brampton assembly plants” can be expected.

A request for comment from Brampton’s local union representative for Unifor Local 1285 was not returned. 

Unifor’s contracts with the Detroit Big Three includes nearly 20,000 autoworkers, the largest shares of which work at the Windsor and Brampton assembly plants. Negotiations opened last week with these contracts set to expire next month. Along with wages, pensions and benefits, the typical fodder for any contract negotiations, Payne said the complex transition to EV production is causing anxiety across the board for workers in the sector. 

Regarding potential layoffs during the transition to EV, Payne said the union expects “a period of downtime” but they will have to confirm how those retooling periods will affect Windsor and Brampton. The union is looking to ensure workers are protected during these shutdown periods with “improved income security measures,” she said. 

In its 2022 annual report, Stellantis said that the company “may be subject to work stoppages in the event that we and our labour unions are unable to agree on collective bargaining agreement terms or have other disagreements,” referring to the end of their collective agreement this year with labour unions UAW and Unifor, in the U.S. and Canada. 

Payne did not rule out the potential for a strike.

“Workers have shown time and time again that they are prepared to fight and to strike if necessary to have their demands met,” she said. “This is the moment we are in, and no one… should underestimate it.”

During the union’s announcement last Thursday, Payne shared that their members' expectations are “very high” for a good deal with the big automakers. 

“We are seeking improvements to health benefits, health and safety protections, as well as mental health supports,” she said.

She discussed the four core priorities that the union will expect to be addressed during bargaining in order for a settlement to be received, including pensions, wages, transition support and investment. 

“Auto worker pension benefits have deteriorated over time for our members, active and retired, including new hires,” she said. “We will be demanding substantial wage improvements…Improvements that will reflect the affordability crisis as well as the extraordinary profits that the companies are making.” 

The move to retool the Brampton plant is part of a larger shift toward electrification, with the company having announced a $3.6 billion investment in May of 2022 toward the Windsor and Brampton plants as part of their greater shift into production of electric vehicle components and software around the world.

“We have an opportunity right now to set the blueprint for what good jobs must look like in a net zero economy,” Payne said Thursday. 

Canada is one of many countries which are attempting to address concerns over the climate crisis and greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to the rise in global temperatures. A shift into electric vehicles is one of the ways the federal government has promised to achieve its goals surrounding the environment and sustainable practices. 

In December of 2022, the Government of Canada published proposed regulations for manufacturers and importers of passenger cars that will require 20 percent of new vehicles sold in the country to be zero emissions by 2026 and for 60 percent to be zero emissions by 2030. This moves toward a final target of 100 percent of vehicles being zero emission by 2035. 

In Canada, the transportation sector accounts for approximately 27 percent of greenhouse gas emissions with “light-duty vehicles” (cars, vans and light-duty trucks), accounting for half of those emissions, according to government data. 

Canada has some of the highest greenhouse gas emission rates globally. Data from 2019 reveals it ranked tenth for total emissions among the top greenhouse gas emitting countries and regions in the world, but ranked first for per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the world, which was more than the U.S., who were second in the ranking for that year. 

Other companies can also be seen making a shift toward electric and zero emission vehicles in Canada. This past spring, German automaker Volkswagen announced plans to begin production of electric vehicle batteries in a new plant in St. Thomas, Ontario. The Prime Minister’s Office shared that this “historic investment” would be Volkswagen's largest plant and would “create up to 3,000 direct jobs and up to 30,000 indirect jobs,” by its completion in 2027.   

Looking ahead, Payne said that Unifor will be holding its Canadian Council meetings in Halifax in the coming weeks, as well as the National Collective Bargaining Summit. “Over this period I expect the companies to review and process the proposals we gave them today,” she said. 

Meetings will continue on August 21st in Toronto and “intensive negotiations” will be expected in the weeks following, the national president said. Customary strike votes will also be held this month on the 26th and 27th, “in the hopes that our members will give us the mandate we need to take strike action if necessary and if a deal can’t be reached,” said Payne. 



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