Unifor wants three-year contracts with the Detroit 3 instead of four-year ones, hoping that negotiating at the same time as the UAW will make it easier to attract major investments to Canada in the future.

“I’m sick and tired of playing catch-up,” Unifor President Jerry Dias said.

“When we go into bargaining with the Detroit 3, we’re always cognizant of the major investment announcements coming out of UAW bargaining.”

Unifor on Tuesday, Sept. 8, selected Ford Motor Co. as its target company, with the aim of patterning contracts with General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles after whatever deal it reaches with Ford.

The Canadian union represents about 17,000 auto workers under contracts with the Detroit automakers set to expire Monday, Sept. 21.

Unifor’s bargaining with the Detroit 3 comes a year after the UAW wrapped up its contentious talks, which included the longest national strike against GM in almost half a century. The relative timing has often worked to Unifor’s disadvantage when seeking investments as few products remain for allocation.

Should the automakers agree to the three-year contracts Dias is going after — as the union’s predecessor, the Canadian Auto Workers, negotiated before the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler — Unifor and the UAW would instead negotiate for new production at the same time.

That would present its own risks for Unifor, such as allowing automakers to pit the unions against each other, said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“Going in simultaneously, it does create … more opportunity for whipsaw,” she said. “They can go to one bargaining table and say, ‘Well, this union is willing to give us X, Y and Z. What are you willing to give us?'” And the UAW, being the larger union, would generally have more leverage
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