When Unifor’s Independent Parts Supplier Council gathered for an online meeting on March 3, 2022 the mood was optimistic despite the number of significant challenges affecting workers in the industry.
For auto parts workers, the past two years have been difficult due to the knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain shortages, particularly with semiconductors. Intermittent production interruptions left a number of Unifor members in painful economic circumstances. This was noted extensively throughout the meeting. In spite of these difficulties, many union locals submitted positive reports of union bargaining teams making significant progress in contract negotiations.
“Our sector is moving. Collective bargaining in many IPS units saw great improvements,” IPS Council President Emile Nabbout noted. “Some of those improvements we were not able to negotiate even in good times. That’s something we always need to really celebrate and take note of,” Nabbout added, who also serves as Unifor Local 195 President in Windsor.
The IPS Council trained much of its attention on the sector’s ongoing and looming challenges, including the threat to certain auto parts jobs posed by the shift to zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) and the need to secure new investments and product allocations to protect members’ job security.
Unifor Research Department Direct Angelo DiCaro provided an overview of the union’s extensive policy and advocacy work, including:
- A report on the status of the union’s forthcoming new auto sector policy,
- A meticulous “threat assessment” database of at-risk auto parts supplier jobs,
- Ongoing meetings with government and industry stakeholders to advocate for job creation across the supply chain including the Accelerate Alliance, the need to identify and implement enhanced worker supports, and securing the existing industry footprint.
“There are many challenges we face, but there seems to be a sense of opportunity, and if we harness our new auto policy properly for example, we can really build this industry to be a powerhouse sector,” said DiCaro.
Many uncertainties remain for the industry, and the union continues to hold meetings, bring together stakeholders, and support local union efforts to defend members’ interests.
What is certain is the return of the U.S. electric vehicle rebate, which Shane Wark, Unifor Assistant to the National President, recently raised with federal government officials.
The proposed $12,000 rebate on U.S.-built electric vehicles that omits Canadian-manufactured electric vehicles was shelved in December but still poses risks to Canada’s auto assembly and parts manufacturing sector.
“This would basically cut off exports from Canada to the U.S. on electric vehicles, which would be completely devastating. We're waiting for the likely possibility for this to resurface while we continue to push for Canadian inclusion into this policy,” added DiCaro.