Unifor members vote to ratify new agreement with Stellantis, protecting Brampton auto workers during EV transition
“This is the best one-time agreement that any of our members have ever seen,” James Stewart, Chair of Unifor’s Master Bargaining Committee, said at a press conference October 30.
After ongoing bargaining and a strike lasting only a few hours, Unifor finally reached a new agreement with Stellantis (formerly Chrysler), providing clarity to Brampton workers after their last agreement reached its end.
The new agreement covers 8,200 Unifor members at Windsor Assembly Plant, Brampton Assembly Plant, Etobicoke Casting Plant, Red Deer and parts distribution centres in Mississauga. The Brampton plant, which for years featured the Chrysler name, employs almost 2,500 workers in the giant space which covers almost 270 acres along Williams Parkway East. A transition to electric vehicles away from the two muscle cars (the Dodge Charger and Challenger) and the gas-guzzling Chrysler 300 that have been assembled there for more than a decade, has been a going concern for Unifor over the last few years.
“When we talk about EV transition, especially in our Brampton assembly plant… our members are protected through that retool,” Vito Beato, Unifor Local 1285 President and Vice Chair of Unifor’s Master Bargaining Committee, said.
Lana Payne, Unifor National President, said the deal achieves “the same significant wage increases, pension improvements and electric vehicle (EV) transition income security measures as Unifor members at Ford and General Motors,” according to a press release.
“We took strike action in order to get this tentative agreement across the finish line. It includes the core economic pattern on wages and pensions, investments as well as EV transition supports achieved with Ford and General Motors,” she shared at a press conference on October 30. “This deal… includes a number of Stellantis specific improvements, including on pensions, work practices, investments and special measures for workers at Windsor assembly, who have been navigating their own EV plant retool over the course of our negotiations.”
She shared that the agreement will “considerably improve” the standard of living for all Unifor members working for Stellantis in Canada. “Our goal was to achieve investments and job security for our members for the years and decades to come,” Payne shared, and said Stellantis has committed in writing to deliver investments of over $3 billion in facilities in Canada and provided a “clear roadmap” on the Windsor and Brampton assembly plants, which are both expected to return to three shifts.
Unifor members took brief strike action to reach the tentative agreement with Stellantis on October 30, which they voted to ratify on November 6.
The Stellantis’ auto plants in Brampton and Windsor received an investment of $3.6 billion to transition into electrification. At the start of 2024, Brampton’s plant will close down for retooling to facilitate production of EV components and is expected to reopen in 2025. Unifor’s members reached the end of their collective agreement with the Detroit Big Three this year, entering into negotiations with each company. The new agreement with Stellantis—who like the other Detroit Big Three made record profits during the current living affordability crisis—focused on securing workers’ rights for years to come.
While the tentative agreement achieved on October 30 was “historic,” bargaining was no walk in the park. Payne shared that Stellantis “came to the table aggressively,” and attempted to outsource some of the union's demands and showed “flat out resistance” to many aspects of the pattern agreement that Unifor was able to reach with the other Detroit Big Three companies. Payne shared that Unifor was able to fend off “outsourcing of jobs at our parts distribution centres and the elimination of jobs in our office and engineering units.” After a long period of uncertainty, Unifor members will be supported during EV retooling closures through the Master Agreement, which introduces “special EV transition provisions, including enhanced income security protections,” as stated in a recent press release.
The pattern agreement, as highlighted in a Unifor press release, will include:
- “Base hourly wage increases of nearly 20% for production and 25% for Skilled Trades over the lifetime of agreement.
- By the end of the three-year agreement, a top-rate production assembler will be paid $44.52 per hour, in addition to a forecasted $1.61 cost of living allowance (a total of $46.13); a journeyperson skilled trades worker will be paid $55.97 per hour, in addition to a forecasted $1.61 cost of living allowance (a total of $57.58).
- General wage increases in each year of the agreement with 10% in year one, 2% in year two and 3% in year three.
- Reactivation of the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) in December 2024.
- Improvements to all pension plans.
- Wage progression reduced from 8 to 4 years.
- $10,000 Productivity and Quality bonus for full-time employees and $4,000 for Temporary Part Time.
- Two new additional paid holidays: Family Day and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.”
Unifor understood Stellantis as feeling it was "making the biggest investments in Canada, they were putting a battery plant here and they had the largest footprint, so this deal was going to be extremely expensive for them, and indeed it is,” she said. She announced that Unifor needed to ensure “strong EV transition supports” for its members at Brampton assembly plant, citing the length of their retooling period, and shared that it achieved just that. “This is a model for sectors and other industries who will also be going through transition,” she said.
Brampton is facing looming and increasing threats from the climate crisis—including flooding of its downtown which is situated in a designated floodplain—as temperatures rise, with Canadian citizens, activists and scientists around the world raising the alarm on the need for urgent action to address greenhouse gas emissions before it's too late. In a first, the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA) recently awarded Brampton as the 49th city out of 50 for the Green Fleet Awards 2023. The award recognizes Brampton, who is the only Canadian city on the list this year, for its “demonstrated exceptional commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship in fleet management,” as shared in a City news release. NAFA’s Green Fleet Award honours fleets “who have enhanced practices to make a positive impact on the environment,” and recognizes organizations that “execute groundbreaking and inventive programs for their green initiatives.” The promise for a more sustainable fleet is part of the City of Brampton's plans to meet its net-zero emissions goals by 2050, with the transition to producing electric vehicles also falling in line with its sustainability goals.
“Of the three Detroit automakers in Canada, Stellantis has the largest footprint, the biggest workforce and the most vehicle products manufactured in this country,” Payne said during the press conference.
“We had to achieve something for everybody, and given the economic times we’re in, I would say to you what we were very clear with the automakers about at the start of this bargaining is that this would have to be the best collective agreement in the history of bargaining in Canada for autoworkers in order to meet the expectations of our members.” The new contract will expire on September 20, 2026.
Despite the encouraging direction the new agreement brings for Unifor’s Stellantis workers at the Brampton assembly plant, other businesses employed through Stellantis via partnerships and other second and third-party contracts still face uncertainty over job security, with one supplier working with the Brampton assembly claiming he lost work after 20 years with the company due to the plant’s retooling.
“We work when they work,” Wilfred Riddell, who was employed by Ceva Logistics, a supplier to the Brampton Stellantis plant, said. He shared that he is represented by the local United SteelWorkers Union and claimed the EV transition does not look out for secondary suppliers. “We got seat suppliers, we got tire suppliers,” Riddell told The Pointer. “My company would just be awarded the contract from Stellantis, then they fight over who does it cheaper of course…”.
He also said he has heard that other suppliers like himself fear closures or job loss as the Brampton plant prepares for retooling in 2024.
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