Unions and automakers face off in negotiations with COVID-19, economy in focus

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TORONTO — Union representatives will meet with the Canadian arms of the Detroit Three automakers today to start negotiating wages and benefits for the next four years.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the employment landscape will be in focus as Unifor seeks to make a deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles FCA, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co.

The existing agreements expire on Sept. 21.

Auto sales plummeted this spring during the peak months of the pandemic, and production lines stalled as automakers shut down plants.

But Unifor national president Jerry Dias says he will be on the lookout for any attempts by the manufacturers to use COVID-19 as an “excuse” going forward, as the union tries to secure new product commitments and job security for plants in Ontario cities Oakville, Brampton, Windsor and St. Catharines.

Unifor represents about 20,000 Canadian workers at the three automakers.