Unifor has picked General Motors as the target company to set the pattern agreement in the current round of negotiations with the Detroit Three automakers.

“These negotiations are about the future of local communities, good jobs and the industry,” said Unifor national president, Jerry Dias.

“Our demand is clear, invest today to build a future for tomorrow.”

General Motors employs 6,600 Unifor members in Oshawa, Ingersoll and St. Catharines making the Impala, Equinox, Buick Regal, Cadillac XTS, and GMC Terrain, as well as engines, transmissions and components.

Of the 6,600 members, 2,600 work at the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, who are not part of the Master Agreement. Around 23,050 Unifor members work at the Detroit Three companies.

With pattern bargaining, negotiations focus on one company to reach an agreement, which sets a standard for the auto industry in Canada. Once an agreement with the target company is ratified by members, focus in bargaining shifts to a second company and then the third.

Unifor’s current contract with the Detroit Three expires at 23:59 on 19 September. Should a new agreement not be reached, Unifor autoworkers have voted overwhelmingly to give their bargaining committees authorisation to call a strike if necessary.

An independent study released by Unifor last week found that losing the Detroit Three would eliminate C$26bn (US$20.2bn) from the economy, cut 150,000 jobs and cost C$4.7bn per year in government revenues.

“The strength of the auto industry in Canada is not only vital to those in the industry, but to the entire Canadian economy,” Dias said.

“Policy makers and the public need to understand what is at stake here.”

Last week, a Unifor spokesman told just-auto a strike vote would not be perceived as a drastic move by the automakers.

“It is a bureaucratic process we go through here,” said the Unifor spokesman. “The whole thing is based on the idea no union leadership can call on its membership on a whim.”