Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Where does this petition go?
A1. When we have maximized the number of signers, the petition will be presented to Jerry Dias, Unifor President, and the Chairpersons of the Ford, GM and FCA Bargaining Committees. The names and contact information will only be shared with these people, no-one else. It will not be made public.
Q2. Our collective agreements contain hundreds of pages. Is it practical for the Unifor leadership to provide full disclosure?
A2. Yes, technology makes this easier than ever. The UAW has provided full disclosure before ratification voting of the Master agreements and highlight brochures on their website for the past few contracts. The “white book” that they publish contains all of the changes in the tentative agreement, and all of the unchanged paragraphs, dated and signed. If the UAW can do it, so can Unifor. (See our article on the “white book”)
Q3. Are there any examples of items that were not included in the highlights brochure, or where details were missing?
A3. We all know that there is a lot of “fine print” that we only find out about later. In fact, some letters never get shared with the membership. Here are just a few important examples:
- GM 2016. The Union negotiated a skilled trades pension for some 18 reps, even though they were from production classifications and would not have been entitled to it. (Pages 72-74 GM Pension Agreement) This was not in the highlights brochure, and not reported at the ratification meetings. In the same contract the Union agreed to an inferior defined contribution pension for all new hires.
- Ford and GM 2016. The highlight brochure claimed there was “a written commitment to provide legal and financial assistance in the event a team leader is liable under the OHS Act” (Page 9 – Ford brochure). The actual language made it clear that assistance was totally at the discretion of the Company.
- Ford, GM, FCA 2012. “Income security: new hires receive short work week after 3 years (current practice), no SUB credits for years 1-5, half SUB credits for years 6-10, and full SUB credits after year 10.” (Page 6 – Chrysler brochure) Some important details were not included: SUB for new hires is capped at 26 credit units until reaching 10 years seniority; SUB for new hires is reduced from 65% to 50% after 13 weeks; it wasn’t made clear that new hires can’t reach maximum SUB credits until they have 20 years or more (only 10 years for non new hires).
If the highlight brochure urges us to vote for the contract because there is product commitment or investment, we should get to see the actual signed language. Consider just these two examples:
- FCA 2016 highlights: “Brampton Assembly Plant (BAP) – Investment of C$325M which includes rebuilding the existing paint shop to ensure its sustainability, improved efficiency and improved environmental performance. This work is scheduled to begin during the summer shutdown period in 2017.” (Page 6 – Fiat Chrysler brochure) What was the wording of the signed language?
- GM 2016 highlights: Jerry Dias wrote “Heading into these negotiations we faced the closure of Oshawa, and an uncertain future in St. Catharines and Woodstock. I am so proud to announce that we have reversed that direction, and solidified the footprint of the industry in Canada far into the future.” (Page 1 – GM brochure) What was the wording of the signed language?
Q4. Shouldn’t we just trust the Bargaining Committee?
A4. We trust our elected reps to do the work of bargaining on our behalf. The members are supposed to democratically decide on the demands and goals of bargaining. Once the Bargaining Committee reaches a tentative agreement they should report back to the membership what demands they achieved, and which they didn’t. A tentative agreement has to be ratified by a majority of the members. This is required by the Unifor Constitution and the Ontario Labour Relations Act. We can’t have a meaningful, democratic vote unless it is an informed vote. We trust the Bargaining Committee to bargain. They must trust the membership with the complete wording of the contract they are asking us to ratify. As Gregg Shotwell said, “Would you buy a house from a realtor who said, ‘You can’t look in the basement’? Would you buy a car from a dealer said, ‘You can’t look under the hood’?” [Gregg Shotwell was one of the rank-and-file UAW members who fought for full disclosure of UAW agreements with the auto companies.] Members must have the right to look at, digest, and formulate questions on the document that will shape their work lives for the next 4 years.
Q5. Can a petition get results?
A5. A petition is a time-honoured form of communication with people in authority. There can be nothing wrong with the membership presenting a respectful request to the union leadership. This petition expresses what thousands of members want – our desire to have full disclosure of the contract before we vote. We know the petition doesn’t “force” the leadership to comply, but it is important to let them know what we want and expect.
The Unifor leadership obviously believes that petitions are a good way to show support and get results. Just in the last few months they have asked us to sign petitions to government for:
- Pandemic pay for health care workers
- Income and benefit protection for OLG workers
- Minimum standard of care for seniors
- Canada’s Ministers of Labour to support and enforce the right to refuse unsafe work without repercussion during Covid-19
- Keep aerospace jobs at Bombardier Downsview.
If we have a democratic union “that belongs to its members” and “is controlled by members and driven by members” (Page 4 – Unifor Constitution Article 2), then the leadership should listen to the members who have taken the time to sign and respond to us.
Q6. Should anybody fear that they will be subject to reprisals from the union for signing this petition?
A6. The Unifor Constitution explicitly states “All members have right to free speech including the right to criticize the policies or governance of the Union”. (Article 5A) All National and Local leaders are required to follow the Constitution, including this article, so no member should be subject to any harassment, bullying or reprisals for expressing our desire for full disclosure of what is bargained on our behalf, before we vote on it. If anybody does try to intimidate any member, they need to be confronted and stopped. There should be no room in our union for a bully culture that tries to prevent different points of view or constructive criticism of leadership.