Canadian union Unifor ratifies GM deal that includes $787M retool for commercial EV output

Unifor members ratified a three-year contract with General Motors that includes a $787 million (C$1 billion) investment commitment at CAMI Assembly in Ingersoll, Ontario, to begin building all-electric delivery vans later this year.

According to a post on Unifor Local 88’s website, 91 percent of CAMI workers who voted cast a ballot in favor of the new contract. Among production workers, 94 percent voted in favor of the deal, while 65 percent of skilled trades workers did so.

“The stakes going into these negotiations were high with the Equinox program ending, and there wasn’t a time during these difficult negotiations that we were not thinking about our members and their families, and we are grateful to all the members for their solidarity as we worked to ensure our plant is viable,” Mike Van Boekel, chair of Unifor’s master bargaining committee, said in a statement.

The ratification caps off a surprise round of bargaining, which occurred months before the prior contract was set to expire in September. Unifor and GM had quietly begun negotiations on Jan. 4 and announced plans for the investment in CAMI Friday night.

The investment plans, which are contingent upon government support, would allow for production of GM’s new EV600 all-electric commercial van to start later this year. Work at CAMI would begin immediately, GM said.

“This is the result of collaboration with the Ontario and federal governments, and General Motors,” Unifor President Jerry Dias said in a statement.

‘Something really good’

GM Canada President Scott Bell said in a statement: “Sometimes, when you are truly ambitious and play as a team, it all comes together. With [Monday’s] ratification of our new 2021 agreement with Unifor at CAMI, we are charging ahead to make Canada the new manufacturing site for GM’s all-new BrightDrop EV600 fully-electric commercial delivery van.

“GM Canada engineers in Markham and Oshawa were instrumental in the early stages of ideation and testing of this truly innovative solution for the massive global delivery industry.

“Just three days after GM’s unveil of this new business, we identified Canada as the manufacturing home for the EV600. Something really good is happening here.”

GM, looking to stake a claim in the commercial vehicle segment, is eager to begin production of the EV600 as part of its new BrightDrop commercial EV business, unveiled last week during CES. FedEx, which ordered 500 EV600s from GM, is lined up to be BrightDrop’s first customer.

The automaker sees demand for parcel, food delivery and reverse logistics surging in the next several years. GM, citing the World Economic Forum, anticipates demand for urban delivery to fulfill e-commerce orders growing by 78 percent by 2030, leading to a 36-percent increase in the number of delivery vehicles in the world’s 100 largest cities.

BrightDrop, which will also sell an electric pallet called the EP1, will initially operate in the U.S. and Canada.