Canada’s Autoworkers Battle With Big 3 To Save Jobs From Going To Mexico

Linda Parton,

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Ted Goodman Contributor
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Autoworkers in Canada are concerned that their jobs are destined for Mexico, and the union is making that clear in negotiations with General Motors (GM), Ford and Fiat-Chrysler (FCA).

The union representing the autoworkers, Unifor, was formed in 2013 after the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada merged to form the largest private-sector union in the country. Unifor represents about 23,000 workers who are employed by the “Detroit 3” automakers.

The union’s top goal is to secure production at Canadian facilities for its workers. The union pointed to specific targets with each of the three automakers. The union is focused on the GM Oshawa assembly plant, Ford Motor Company’s Windsor engine plants and FCA’s Brampton assembly plant.

Oshawa, Ont., is a city approximately 30 mi. east of Toronto and has a long history of auto manufacturing. GM Canada is headquartered in Oshawa, and the city employed 15,000 auto workers in the early 1990s. Today, about 2,400 hourly employees still work at the car assembly plant, but local union leaders are concerned that the plant might shut down if new production guarantees are not included in the new contract.

Windsor, Ont. lost new engine production, and 1,000 jobs to Mexico in 2014, after Ford failed to reach a deal with federal and provincial governments to keep engine production in Ontario. Canadian employees are concerned that recent investments in Mexico, mixed with an agreement between automakers and American workers to invest $23 billion in the United States, leaves Canadian workers high and dry.

FCA’s Brampton plant employs about 3,340 hourly workers, and manufactures the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger. Employees at the Brampton plant are also concerned about new investments by auto companies in Canada, and Unifor expressed its commitment to ensuring that they get some guarantees from the Detroit 3 to invest new car production in Brampton, as well as Windsor and Oshawa.

Auto-parts makers argue that the Canadian government could do more to incentivize automakers to conduct new business in Canada. A trade association representing auto-parts makers in Canada recently advocated for the national government to change the $500 million Automotive Investment Fund from a loan-based program to a grant-based incentive program.

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