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Ford Agrees to New Labor Agreement in Canada as Negotiations in U.S. Progress Slowly

Negotiations between each of the three large U.S. automakers and the United Auto Workers union remain far from being resolved, but one of the companies — Ford Motor — has averted a second strike in Canada.

Late on Tuesday, the company reached a tentative labor agreement with Unifor, Canada’s main auto union. The deal was announced minutes before an 11:59 p.m. deadline set by the union for a strike by its 5,600 members at Ford.

Neither side disclosed the terms of the agreement, but Unifor said the company had made a “substantive offer.”

“We believe that this agreement will solidify the foundations on which we will continue to bargain gains for generations of autoworkers in Canada,” Unifor’s national president, Lana Payne, said in a statement.

Unifor’s talks with Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, which owns Chrysler, Jeep and Ram, started on Aug. 10 but have been overshadowed by the U.A.W. contract talks in the United States.

Ford has an assembly plant and two engine plants in Canada. Unifor selected Ford as the “target” of its talks, meaning it focused on securing the best deal it could from the company before turning to the other two automakers. Now, it will seek to strike similar agreements with G.M. and Stellantis.

Ford’s deal in Canada appears to have little bearing on the U.A.W. strikes in the United States.

Last Thursday, the U.A.W. told nearly 13,000 workers to leave their jobs at three U.S. plants: a G.M. pickup truck factory in Wentzville, Mo.; a Ford truck and sport utility vehicle plant in Wayne, Mich.; and a Stellantis S.U.V. plant in Toledo, Ohio.

The talks appear to have progressed only a little since the strikes began on Friday. On Wednesday, the U.A.W. said it was reviewing a new offer from Stellantis but declined to provide details.

The union is seeking a 40 percent increase in wages over four years, saying the pay of the automakers’ chief executives rose by roughly that much over the previous four years. The companies have offered raises of just over 20 percent.

The U.S. union also wants more workers to qualify for pension plans, company-paid health care for retirees, shorter working hours and other improvements. And the U.A.W. is seeking an end to a practice under which new hires are paid about $17 an hour — a bit more than half the top union wage of $32 an hour.

At $32 an hour, a U.A.W. member working 40 hours a week is paid about $67,000 a year. In recent years, the companies have paid workers profit-sharing bonuses of $9,000 to $15,000.

Outside Stellantis’s North American headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., on Wednesday, workers who are not on strike picketed in support of the work stoppage, chanting, “No justice, no Jeeps.”

Josh Boyd, 36, an auto mechanic who works at the headquarters’ technical center, said he was ready to walk out if asked by the union. “There’s always uncertainty, but there’s also excitement,” he said. “I think we’re going to get a good contract.”

Mr. Boyd, who carried his young daughter on his shoulder, said that he earned $32 an hour, but that his family of three was stretched. “Day care is $250 a week,” he said. “I’ve got a mortgage. My wife is in school, so we are on one income.”

LaShawn English, who was elected this year as the director of the U.A.W.’s Region 1, which includes parts of Michigan and Canada, said the wage increases offered by the automakers would apply to most but not all workers. Among those who would not get the same raises are temporary workers who make up about 12 percent of Stellantis’s unionized work force of 43,000.

“It’s not just about the higher-wage workers,” she said. “We have to move everybody forward. We can’t leave people behind.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Stellantis presented a new offer to the union but did not disclose details other than to say it primarily addressed issues other than wages. The company also said it had to lay off 68 workers at a machining plant in Ohio, and might have to lay off 300 more in Indiana because of the U.A.W.’s strike at its Toledo plant, which makes Jeeps.

On Tuesday, the U.A.W. president, Shawn Fain, said the union might expand the strike to additional plants this week if it did not make significant progress toward an agreement. Mr. Fain is expected to announce additional strike locations Friday morning with workers leaving their jobs at noon.

In the past, the U.A.W. typically struck at all locations of one automaker at a time. Mr. Fain was elected president of the union this year on promises to take a more combative approach. His unusual strike strategy, frequent media appearances and strident criticisms of management appear to have caught the automakers off guard.

On Friday, Mr. Fain appeared at a rally of several hundred workers in Detroit along with Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent.

On Wednesday, G.M.’s second-highest-ranking executive, its president, Mark Reuss, sought to rebut Mr. Fain’s criticisms in an opinion essay in The Detroit Free Press.

He said G.M. had offered to increase wages 20 percent over the next four years, which would lift the top wage to more than $39 an hour, or about $82,000 a year, based on a 40-hour workweek. Entry-level workers now earning $17 an hour would reach $39 an hour after four years.

“U.A.W. leadership claims G.M. pays its team members ‘poverty’ wages,’” Mr. Reuss wrote. “This is simply not true.”

While G.M. is making near-record profits — it made almost $10 billion in 2022 — Mr. Reuss said the company was investing heavily to make the transition to electric vehicles, including $11 billion this year. He added that the company could not afford to pay what the U.A.W. was seeking if it wanted to remain competitive and healthy.

“The fundamental reality is that the U.A.W.’s demands can be described in one word — untenable,” he wrote, adding, “As the past has clearly shown, nobody wins in a strike.”

Separately, the U.A.W. said on Wednesday that 190 union members went on strike at a Tuscaloosa, Ala., plant owned by ZF, a company that supplies axles to Mercedes-Benz.

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