Jerry Dias Interview Unifor EV Ford FCA

Unifor’s national president speaks exclusively to Electric Autonomy about the pivotal role that governments played in securing EV production in Ontario and what the Ford and FCA deals mean for Canadian autoworkers and supply chain

Unifor national president Jerry Dias says that the electric vehicle production won for Ford’s Oakville assembly plant in the union’s recent negotiations, slated to begin in 2025, was originally earmarked for Mexico. What made the difference in bringing that production to Canada, he says, is government cooperation and willingness to put forward the necessary investment.

“I haven’t seen this element of cooperation between the federal and provincial governments ever like this that I’m witnessing today,” Dias told Electric Autonomy Canada in an exclusive video interview recorded late last week after Unifor doubled up on the Ford news with a contract deal with Fiat Chrysler (FCA) that includes a $1.3-to-$1.5-billion investment to bring a plug-in hybrid and/or electric vehicle to the company’s Windsor facility.

“The federal and provincial governments understand… All of a sudden…the national auto strategy that we’ve been talking about seems to be in place.”

Jerry Dias, National President, Unifor

Canada’s “fair share”

“To date, over $300-billion worth of electric vehicles have been announced globally, of which not one nickel had been allocated to Canada until the Ford announcement a couple of weeks ago. … It really is about Canada saying ‘Hey, hold on here: if we don’t start to win our fair share of battery electric vehicles, we stand to be left out in the cold.’”

Dias says that the government funding to seal the Ford deal was 15 per cent of the overall cost, which is higher than the 10 per cent typically seen on these types of investments. The FCA deal, which was ratified by the union in a vote that concluded today, is also dependent on government support that has not yet been announced.

“The projects that we’re talking about with [FCA], obviously there was the whole debate about Mexico as well,” Dias says. “One could argue we hijack these programs, but it wouldn’t have happened if the governments weren’t aggressive.”

“The supply base is talking about who is going to provide the batteries…there’s a raging debate about manufacturing them.”

Jerry Dias, National President, Unifor

Ripple effect

These deals, along with whatever may result from Unifor’s upcoming negotiations with General Motors of Canada, kick off a ripple effect that will reverberate through the entire automotive supply chain industry in Canada, Dias says.

“Our members who work for the supply base are feeling pretty comfortable, and their companies see this as one heck of an opportunity,” Dias says. “This is about putting workers back in our steel plants. This is about making batteries. This is about saying to aluminum workers in Quebec and B.C. … to lithium workers in Quebec … cobalt workers in Northern Ontario, you’re going to be a part of the solution.

“It is a transformative time. … We’re on the cusp of leading globally for where this incredible industry is going.”

To hear all of Dias’ comments, watch the full exclusive interview.