Ford Avoids Canada Walkout as UAW Prepares for More US Auto Strikes

Ford Avoids Canada Walkout as UAW Prepares for More US Auto Strikes
The recently manufactured vehicles at Ford's Oakville Assembly Plant in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, on May 26, 2023. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

DETROIT—Ford reached a last-minute deal to avoid a walkout at its Canadian operations late on Tuesday, as the United Auto Workers (UAW) union prepared for a potential expansion of its U.S. strikes against the Detroit Three automakers.

Unifor, which represents about 5,600 Canadian auto workers, were threatening to go on strike at all three of Ford’s plants in the country if a deal was not reached by 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday.

“We leveraged our union’s most powerful weapon: the right to strike,” Unifor said of the tentative deal in a statement. “The gains achieved were hard fought for over weeks of negotiation.”

The three-year agreement remains subject to ratification by Unifor members, Ford’s Canada unit said in a statement, adding it would not disclose details of the tentative deal.

Unifor had sought improved wages and pensions, as well as support in the transition to electric vehicles and additional investment commitments by Ford.

The Canadian union will now turn to getting deals with General Motors and Chrysler parent Stellantis, whose deadlines had been extended while the Ford talks proceeded.

US Contingency Plans

Unifor’s talks with the Detroit Three automakers in Canada are separate from the UAW’s coordinated U.S. action that led to about 12,700 workers going on strike last week against one assembly plant at each company.

The U.S. strikes, heading into their sixth day, have halted production at plants in Michigan, Ohio, and Missouri that produce the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler, and Chevrolet Colorado, alongside other popular models.

The UAW has said it will announce strikes against more U.S. plants on Friday if no serious progress is made in talks with automakers.

Analysts expect plants that build more profitable pickup trucks such as Ford’s F-150, GM’s Chevy Silverado, and Stellantis’s Ram to be the next strike targets if the walkout continues.

In a statement late on Tuesday, Ford said it was making contingency plans for further U.S. work stoppages, including plans to ship the parts that keep Ford vehicles on the road, especially to keep first responders and other essential services running.

Ford said it continued to negotiate with the UAW, with the focus on reaching a deal that would reward its employees and enable the company to invest and grow.

The UAW and companies disagree over pay and benefits for workers. The three automakers have proposed 20 percent raises over the 4.5 year term of their proposed deals, though that is only half of what the UAW is demanding through 2027.

Many UAW workers are most concerned about the tiered wage structure that they say has created a yawning gap between newer and older employees, forcing some to work two jobs to make ends meet.

Dozens set out in an Ohio-to-Michigan convoy to rally support for their walkout on Tuesday. Roxanne Stadtfeld, 58, of Monroe, Michigan, said she earns $19.28 an hour as an auto worker and supplements her income by delivering food for DoorDash.

By Ben Klayman and Anirudh Saligrama