Canadian auto workers vote on Ford agreement calling for 15% wage hike

Members of the Canadian union Unifor's bargaining committee posed for a celebratory photo in Toronto on Wednesday after negotiating a tentative labor agreement with Ford Motor Company. Union members are voting on the deal this weekend. Photo Courtesy Unifor

Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Unionized Canadian auto workers began voting Saturday on a new labor deal with Ford Motor Company featuring a 15% wage hike over three years, by some estimates the largest ever negotiated in the industry.

Voting for thousands of Unifor members will run until 10 a.m. EDT Sunday.

The union reached a tentative agreement Wednesday, narrowly avoiding a strike.

The collective bargaining agreement between the union and Ford expired Monday and negotiations were extended beyond an initial deadline to come up with the tentative deal.

The contract includes the first cost of living increase since 2008. It also addresses what Unifor calls its four main priorities, pensions, wages, the transition to manufacturing electric vehicles, and investment.

Newly released details of the agreement show that unionized production workers will get a 10% raise during the contract's first year, followed by raises of 2% and 3% in subsequent years. That equates to an hourly wage of $44.50 by the third year of the agreement, up from $37.

"This is a very rich agreement, possibly the richest in the history of the Canadian union," Jim Stanford, an economist with the Vancouver-based Center for Future Work, told the Globe and Mail in an interview.

Skilled trades workers will get additional raises of 2.75% in the first year, with separate 2.5% annual boosts in following years, topping out at an hourly rate of $56 in the final year of the contract.

"We believe that this tentative agreement, endorsed by the entire master bargaining committee, addresses all of the items raised by members in preparation for this round of collective bargaining," Unifor President Lana Payne said Wednesday.

Unifor is now expected to turn its attention to reaching new labor contracts with General Motors and Stellantis, which owns Jeep, Ram, Dodge, Chrysler and Fiat.

Members of the United Auto Workers union in the United States are currently on the picket lines, striking without a new contract with GM and Stellantis.