Canadian autoworkers, Ford extend strike deadline

Unifor and Ford early Tuesday announced that they had extended the strike deadline to hash out a new contract. Photo courtesy of Unifor/Facebook

Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Canadian autoworkers early Tuesday extended negotiations with the Ford Motor Company another 24 hours in an effort to avoid a strike that was to start at midnight when their contract was set to expire.

The extension was announced by Unifor following negotiations that ran late Monday, and the union instructing its workers at Canadian Ford plants to "remain on shift" unless explicitly instructed otherwise.

In the early Tuesday statement, Unifor said the extension was issued as it had received "a substantive offer" from Ford minutes before the 11:59 p.m. Monday expiration of contracts with the Detroit Three of Ford, General Motors and Stellantis.

"Bargaining is continuing throughout the night," it said. "Unifor members should remain strike readiness."

Extensions had previously been secured with the other two companies. Unifor represents nearly 20,000 Canadian workers at plants those three automakers run across the Great White North.

Ford, which employs about 7,000 workers in Canada, said in a statement that it has agreed to continue negotiations beyond the Monday deadline in order to achieve a tentative agreement.

"We will continue to work collaboratively with Unifor to create a blueprint for the automotive industry that supports a vibrant and sustainable future in Canada."

At about 7:30 p.m., Unifor National President Lana Payne issued a recorded statement, saying progress in negotiations has been made but "we are not where we need to be on key priority issues," namely pension improvements and increased pay.

"A lot can happen in the final hours of deadline bargaining, and there's still a lot of negotiating to do, but we know where we stand here and we are not wavering from our core priorities especially pension improvements," she said. "We need Ford to deliver more to meet our members' expectations and demands.

"It's as simple as that."

The looming strike in Canada comes as one is underway south of the border where some 13,000 American auto workers walked off the job late last week when their United Auto Workers union and the Big Three failed to come to an agreement on a new contract.

Four days into the strike, UAW and the three automakers remained far apart.