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August 1, 2015 to January 31. 2016

Tories threaten to block
Liberal efforts to repeal
controversial union laws

Employment Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk
says the government is reversing laws that 'undermine' unions

John Paul Tasker
CBC News
January 29, 2016

The new Liberal government is set to reverse controversial labour laws passed by Stephen Harper's Conservatives in the last Parliament, but the Tories are already signalling they could use their majority in the Senate to block passage of the legislation.

A bill was introduced in the House of Commons Thursday that would reverse changes to the laws that were made under Bill C-377, which requires unions to disclose how they spend members' dues, as well as Bill C-525, which makes it harder for unions to organize in federally regulated workplaces.

"During the election we committed to repeal these bills because they hinder the positive working relationships between workers and employers," Employment Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk told reporters in the foyer.

But Gérard Deltell, the Conservatives' labour critic, said his party would consider asking Tory senators to kill the bill.

"We'll fight for that for sure," Deltell said. "The second chamber will do its job. We are sure that senators will do what they have to do for that."

Labour unions took issue with Bill C-377 in particular, a piece of legislation that started as a Conservative private member's bill with strong support from Harper himself.

It requires unions to disclose all transactions over $5,000 and reveal the details of officers or executives who make over $100,000 to the Canada Revenue Agency, which would publicly post the information to its website.

Mihychuk said the legislation was not necessary, as labour unions already disclose their financial activities to members.

"Bill C-377 creates unnecessary red tape and financial burdens to unions, working Canadians and even the government of Canada," she said. ​

Bill C-525 changed the union certification process for workers in federally regulated industries like banking, telecommunications and broadcasting, among others.

Critics of the bill argued at the time that it made it harder for workers to unionize as it shifted the certification process from a "card check" program — whereby a simple majority of workers sign a union card to certify or decertify a union — to a two-step process that included a secret ballot vote.

Union applauds reversal of Tory 'attacks'

Mihychuk said the law was an attack on unions by the Tories.

"The motivation was an attempt to undermine the labour movement both by making it more difficult to certify and making it much easier to decertify," she said. "This was not a widespread request of the business community. It was unnecessary and made it much, much harder on unions."

Canada's largest private sector union, Unifor, applauded the move Thursday, saying it's an important first step in reversing Conservative "attacks" on labour unions.

"These two anti-labour bills, a direct attack on unions by the previous Conservative government, undermined the charter right to form a union for workers in federally regulated sectors and imposed unnecessary and onerous reporting burdens on all unions," Jerry Dias, the president of the union, said in a statement.

Rodger Cuzner, the parliamentary secretary to the employment minister, said the government listened to labour groups such Unifor and legal experts who warned them that the bills were likely a violation of Charter rights.

"We know that with Bill C-377 constitutional experts have said most likely it would be unconstitutional," he said. "Privacy experts say that it would compromise the privacy of millions of Canadians. Seven provinces stated they were against this, they thought it dipped into provincial responsibility."

"Bill C-525 — that one was just asinine," Cuzner said, branding the legislation as a solution looking for a problem.

"[The Conservatives] said they wanted to do away with a mountain of grievances against the big union bosses who were hard core labour organizers and get them off the site. But over 10 years, and over 4,000 rulings by the industrial relations board, there were two judgments against unions," for questionable practices during union organizing.

John Barlow, Conservative MP for the Alberta riding of Foothills, slammed the Liberal move as a "quick end to open and transparent government."

Barlow said it was an opportunity for Mihychuk — a former NDP MLA from Manitoba — to curry favour with union leadership who helped worked on her campaign in the last election.

"It's a patronage repayment for those who helped get you elected," Barlow said.


Ford recalls 391K Ranger
pickups due to air bag death

Associated Press
January 28, 2016

Detroit — Ford is recalling nearly 391,000 Ranger pickups because the driver's air bag inflators can explode with too much force and cause injuries.

The recall covers trucks from the 2004 through 2006 model years in the U.S. and Canada.

It comes just days after the government announced that a South Carolina man was killed when an inflator exploded in December. Joel Knight, 52, of Kershaw died when he was struck in the neck by metal shrapnel after his 2006 Ranger hit a cow in the road and struck a fence.

The government says automakers will recall another 5 million vehicles equipped with faulty inflators made by Takata Corp. of Japan. Some of the recalls are because of the crash that killed Knight, with the rest due to air bags failing in lab tests.

Other automakers are expected to announce more recalls soon as the Takata inflator mess continues to grow. It now covers 14 auto and truck makers and totals about 24 million vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the number of recalls is likely to expand further.

Takata uses the chemical ammonium nitrate to cause a small explosion that creates gas and inflates air bags in a crash. But the chemical can deteriorate over time when exposed to high heat and humidity and burn too fast, blowing apart a metal canister designed to contain the explosion.

Knight is the 10th known death worldwide due to the inflators, and more than 100 people have been hurt.

Ford says it will send letters to owners about the recall starting the week of Feb. 22. Although it has some replacement parts available, the company is working with air bag makers to make additional inflators as soon as possible, spokesman John Cangany said.

The Rangers also were recalled last year to replace the passenger air bag inflators. Ford says customers can find out if their trucks are included by going to Ford.com and clicking on "safety recalls." Then they can enter their vehicle identification number to check.

Knight hit the cow at about 6:20 p.m. on South Carolina Route 522 not far from Columbia. If not for the inflator rupture, the crash would have been moderate and wouldn't have killed him, said Amanda Dotter, spokeswoman for the Elrod Pope Law Firm, which is representing his family.


Trudeau plans repeal of
Tories' union, citizenship
laws as Parliament returns

Chris Hall
CBC News
January 27, 2016

He's been to Turkey, the Philippines, London, Malta and Paris. And now, fresh from his efforts to rebrand Canada with billionaires and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Justin Trudeau takes his front row seat in the Commons today for the first full sitting of Parliament since his election in October.

Different audience. Different task.

No matter how adept the prime minister might be at convincing international audiences that his new government represents the face of Canada — of resourcefulness over resources — the challenge at home is to deliver what's already promised.

The Liberals already brought in their middle-class tax cut during the week-long sitting in December. But the list of what else was pledged in the campaign is long, and the importance of setting the right tone this week is critical.

Government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc says the primary focus for the Liberals remains the economy, in particular moving ahead with infrastructure spending and the tax cut.

"Everybody recognizes an increased urgency to implement what we think are the key elements of our election campaign ... elements that will create economic growth and jobs."

Those elements include moving quickly to release money approved by the previous government for infrastructure programs, as well as preparing the Liberals' first budget.

"Those are measures, obviously, that cabinet will be working on."

So the economy will be the priority. But government sources suggest it won't be the sole preoccupation in the first two weeks as the new government looks to put a positive stamp on these early days in power.

Among the measures expected to be dealt with through new legislation:

■Repealing the Conservatives' Bill C-24, which allows the government to strip Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism-related offences.
■Repealing two other Conservative laws that the Liberals argue weaken the rights of trade unions. They are Bill C-377, which requires unions to disclose how they spend members' dues, as well as Bill C-525, which makes it harder for unions to organize in federally-regulated workplaces.
■Introducing parliamentary oversight for Canada's national security agencies, though the commitment to repeal parts of the previous government's anti-terrorism law, Bill C-51, is expected to come later.

Conservatives adapt to opposition

There is an underlying political motivation to moving early on these measures: To remind voters that the Conservatives were willing to override charter rights in the pursuit of security and to burnish the Liberals credentials as a party that cares about new Canadians and working families.

The added bonus is that the New Democrats will almost certainly support each of the measures.

For the Conservatives, still getting accustomed to the role of Official Opposition, their focus will likely be on shoring up the core issues of their supporters.

Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer says his party will push the government to act on what he calls "low-hanging fruit," which includes finalizing trade deals negotiated by the previous government, and starting the work of getting pipelines built.

The Conservatives are also likely to remind Trudeau of the $10-billion deficit ceiling he committed to in the campaign.

■Analysis Trudeau returns from Davos with good press, results to be determined
■With trade deal facing rough ride, Trudeau meets European Parliament leader

"All indications are that they are going to blow right by those targets," says Scheer.

And then there's the military mission against ISIS.

The Liberals have said they will withdraw the six CF-18 fighter jets in favour of a more robust role in training Kurdish fighters. That much is clear.

But when the change will happen, how many Canadian soldiers will be sent into Iraq and where have not yet been decided.

Mulcair's job

For New Democrats, the focus is back on traditional social democratic issues.

Question Period

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says his party will push the Liberals to help workers and families hit by the economic downturn. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Party Leader Tom Mulcair said last week that his party will focus on injustice and inequality, and what NDP House Leader Peter Julian calls the urgent need to improve the social safety net as jobs disappear, and prices for basics such as food begin to rise.

"We're seeing an increasing number of Canadians losing their jobs. We're seeing an erosion of the health-care system all within the context of a record debt load that Canadian families are carrying."

Looming, always in the background, is an economy that could be in far-worse shape than anyone imagined in last year's campaign.

■Mulcair stresses social democratic principles as NDP regroups

Oil is half the price it was in October. The loonie traded at 77 cents when Canadians went to the polls Oct. 19, and is now hovering around 69 cents with some forecasters saying it could slip even further against the greenback.

Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost in the energy sector alone, an industry heavily concentrated in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the two provinces that resisted the Liberal surge in October.

Trudeau has spent much of his time since the election on the road, pitching Canada as a good place to invest, and as a new and willing partner in the battle against climate change.

With the Commons set to resume Monday, a different audience. Different task.

It's time to begin delivery.


Ford adds Super Duty capacity
to Ohio Assembly Plant

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit
January 26, 2016

Ford Motor Co. said Monday that it will add Super Duty chassis cab capacity to its Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake. Until now, Super Duty has been built at the automaker's Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville.

Ohio Assembly employs about 1,400 and makes F-650 and F-750 medium-duty trucks, Ford E-Series cutaway vans and stripped chassis. The new production will include F-350, F-450 and F-550 Super Duty chassis cab configurations.

It's unclear how many Super Duty cabs will be produced in Ohio; a Ford spokesman said the company will match capacity with customer demand.

Ford's all-new Super Duty will go on sale late in 2016 as a 2017 model. It's the first major update since the truck's introduction in 1999, and is up to 350 pounds lighter than the previous model due to a switch to an aluminum body.

Last December, Ford said it would invest $1.3 billion and create 2,000 new hourly jobs at Kentucky Truck to support Super Duty production. The money will be spent on an all-new body shop, facility upgrades and retooling to the 6 million-square-foot plant. The plant employs about 4,400 who also build the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.

Kentucky Truck also received an $80 million Super Duty investment in 2014. It has produced more than 5 million Super Duty trucks since it was first introduced.


Ford to close operations
in Japan, Indonesia

Tom Krisher,
Associated Press
January 25, 2016

Detroit — Ford Motor Co. is pulling out of Japan and Indonesia, saying that market conditions in each country have made it difficult to grow sales or make sustained profits.

"Japan is the most closed, developed auto economy in the world, with all imported brands accounting for less than 6% of Japan's annual new car market," spokesman Neal McCarthy wrote in an email message. The 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement in its current form will not improve Ford's ability to complete there, he said. Congress could vote on the pact this year.

Neither market is large for the Dearborn-based automaker. Last year, Ford sold only 6,100 cars and trucks in Indonesia and only 5,000 in Japan, where it has accused the government of protecting domestic brands.

The company in an emailed statement said that the decision was communicated to employees and dealers on Monday. Ford will exit the countries before the end of the year and plans to explain to customers its commitment to servicing cars, providing parts and making warranty repairs.

McCarthy said auto sales are expected to decline in Japan in the coming years. Analysts have said that's due to an aging population and declining interest in cars among younger people in urban areas.

In Indonesia, it was difficult for Ford to compete without local manufacturing and vehicles to sell in key market segments, McCarthy said. Ford has restructured its business there but still has less than 1 percent of the market with "no reasonable path to sustained profitability," he said.

When the trade agreement was being negotiated in 2013, Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of the Americas and a former head of its Asia-Pacific operations, said that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should be told to open the country's automobile market.

"We hope the U.S. government will send a clear message that any future trade policy with Japan must ensure a level playing field and not come at the expense of American workers," Hinrichs said.


Feds probe complaints that
Ford Focus doors won't latch

Associated Press
January 24, 2016

Detroit — U.S. auto safety regulators have opened an investigation into complaints that doors won't latch properly on about 400,000 Ford Focus compact cars, including some reports that the doors have opened while the cars are moving.

The probe by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration covers Focuses from the 2012 and 2013 model years, according to documents posted Wednesday on the agency's website. It's similar to an investigation that caused a recall last year of more than 456,000 Lincoln MKZ and Ford Fusion and Fiesta models.

In the documents, the agency says 73 drivers have reported problems with latches. In one case, a driver reported an injury when a door rebounded after an attempt to close it. Others said the doors had to be tied down to keep them shut, and others stopped driving their Focuses for fear that the doors might open while they're moving.

Late last year, a Ford Focus driver from San Antonio reported to NHTSA that the driver's side door latch suddenly failed and the door flew open. "This is an extreme safety hazard, and it is just a matter of time until someone falls out of a moving vehicle and is killed or injured," the person wrote. The driver reported calling Ford and being told that it is aware of a large number of failures but would not do a recall. People who complain to NHTSA are not identified by the agency.

The Focus latches are a similar design to those on the recalled cars, but they were made by a different parts supply company, Ford spokesman John Cangany said in an email. "We are working with the agency to understand how these differences may affect the latches," he said.

NHTSA investigators will check how often the problem happens and could seek a recall.

Ford Motor Co. shares slipped 7 cents to $11.88 in morning trading Wednesday as broad stock market indicators lost more ground.


Record 51.26 million vehicles
recalled in U.S. in 2015

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
Jan 23, 2016

Washington — Automakers recalled a record 51.26 million vehicles in 2015 in 868 campaigns — another record, the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration said Thursday.

The tally is slightly above 2014's record, which stood at 50.99 million vehicles after being adjusted downward.

"Clearly, massive recalls are still a prominent feature of the safety landscape," NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said at the Washington Auto Show.

"NHTSA has made major efforts in the last year to improve our processes for identifying vehicle defects, and that effort will continue. ... But identifying defects is not enough. We have to make sure they get fixed."

Rosekind said he believes the recalls went up in part because of increased vigilance by regulators at his agency, following reforms in the office of defect investigations.

"'Proactive' means we start getting these on the front end. We will continue to get defects identified and recalled, and what we're looking for is those numbers to go down," Rosekind said.

"We're going to remain vigilant. We're going to keep using all the tools we can, but we're beginning to see manufacturers pick those up in small numbers early, rather than wait."

The agency said it had to significantly revise downward its recall data for 2014 — initially reported as 63.95 million vehicles — in part because of overstated recall campaigns for defective Takata Corp. air bag inflators.

Manufacturers reduced the number of vehicles that needed to be called back as they determined exactly which cars had the faulty inflators, NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge said. In a number of cases, vehicles that were part of 2014 Takata recall campaigns were superseded by 2015 campaigns as recalls expanded.

Rosekind said he hopes the voluntary agreement announced by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in Detroit last week between his agency and executives from 17 of the world's leading automotive companies will help to prevent problems and identify them sooner when they do occur.

"As (Foxx) said on Friday, real safety is finding and fixing defects before someone gets hurt, rather than just punishing the manufacturer after the damage is done," Rosekind said.

That agreement centers in part around sharing industry-best practices and maximizing safety recall participation rates and increasing the pace at which recalled vehicles are repaired.

Some safety advocates have criticized the agreement for being voluntary, worrying that enforcement could fall off.

"We will continue to use regulation and enforcement. Anyone who's been watching us this last year, you can't question that," Rosekind said. "But you can't use old tools for new problems," referring to early indications that traffic deaths are on the rise again.

Rosekind said research by manufacturing trade groups into improving recall campaigns has found that consumers who receive recall notices too often make their own risk assessments about whether to have their vehicle repaired.

The research also found a strong tie between socioeconomic status and recall completion.

"Not surprisingly, if you're working two low-wage jobs with no paid time off just to keep food on the table, you might not consider it a priority to get a recall fixed," Rosekind said.

His agency is launching a year-long digital ad campaign, "Safe Cars Save Lives," in an attempt to raise the public's awareness of what consumers need to do to protect their families from vehicle defects.

The ads will promote tools for looking up vehicle identification numbers to check for recalls, and encourage people to take action on repairs, Rosekind said.

He encouraged auto dealers to make clear to their customers that recalls are a safety risk they should address, and to make it a policy of their dealerships to not sell or rent any vehicles without repairing safety defects.



GM sets global sales record
of 9.8M vehicles in 2015

Melissa Burden,
The Detroit News
January 22, 2016

General Motors Co. said Thursday it had record sales in 2015 of 9.84 million vehicles globally, up 0.2 percent from a previous record set the year before. It marked the company's third straight year of record sales.

While the Detroit automaker said its sales led competitors in North America, South America and China last year, it likely falls short of the global sales crown. Volkswagen AG, embroiled in a global emissions cheating scandal, reported its global sales fell 2 percent last year to 9.93 million vehicles. Toyota Motor Corp. is expected to be the sales leader, as sales for the Japanese automaker are expected to top 10 million. It will release sales Feb. 5.

A year ago, GM reported its global sales for 2014 totaled 9.92 million, up more than 2 percent from 2013. Last year, the automaker changed the way it reports sales figures in China, from wholesale deliveries to retail sales, which accounted for the sales differences between the two years.

GM said sales in North America totaled 3.61 million vehicles, up 5.9 percent from 2014 and sales in China, GM's largest market, rose 5.2 percent to a record 3.61 million last year. Sales in Europe fell 6.4 percent to nearly 1.18 million and sales in the struggling South America region fell 26.5 percent to 645,217. GM International sales also fell 5.2 percent to 794,637. GM said its fourth quarter global sales rose 4.4 percent to nearly 2.69 million.

"GM continued to grow in 2015 as our focus on the customer and successful new vehicle launches more than offset the challenging conditions in South America and the curtailment of our presence in certain markets such as Russia," GM President Dan Ammann said in a statement.

Its top five markets last year were: China; the U.S., where sales rose 5 percent to nearly 3.1 million in a record sales environment for the U.S. auto industry; Brazil, which tallied 388,025 sales; the United Kingdom at 311,652 sales and Canada, with 263,336 sales.

For the year, sales for GM's largest global brand, Chevrolet, fell 6.9 percent to 4.42 million vehicles. Buick brand sales set a record at 1.23 million, up 8.7 percent and GMC and Cadillac brands also posted global sales gains.

GM said the Opel/Vauxhall brands in Europe saw sales increase 3.4 percent to 1.13 million, the brands best results in four years. GM said its share of the European sales market also increased for the third straight year to nearly 6 percent. The automaker, which has ceased sales of most Chevrolets in Europe to focus on Opel/Vauxhall brands, is working to break even in Europe and has said it expects to be profitable there in 2016. The company also has stopped selling most of its vehicles in Russia.


Obama's auto bailout legacy
fraught with choices

President Barack Obama visits the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources in Detroit after touring the auto show.

Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
Jan 21, 2016

Nearly seven years ago, President Barack Obama defied Republicans, the polls and American tradition to rescue the Detroit auto industry from itself.

The $85 billion gamble paid off. The U.S. Treasury recovered the vast majority of its investments in what are now General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. Hundreds of thousands of jobs in the industrial Midwest were saved or created, many of them in Michigan.

"We had a choice to make," the president told a friendly crowd gathered at the UAW-GM Human Resources Center after a brief tour of the Detroit auto show. "With markets in free fall, there were no private companies, no private investors that would take a chance on you. Think what that would have meant for America. GM and Chrysler would not be here today. In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility."

GM today is more profitable in its home market than any time in the last 50 years. A Detroit given up for dead amid political corruption atop City Hall and the global financial meltdown is charting a new future. That's as much a testament to auto bailouts as a municipal bankruptcy that unspooled and concluded five years later without direct intervention from Washington.

Would any president, Republican or Democrat, have done otherwise for the bellwether U.S. auto industry, risking economic collapse and political peril in the heartland that remains one of the true presidential battlegrounds in any race for the White House? No, as Obama demonstrated and President George W. Bush suggests in his memoir.

But reality is more complicated than the litany of accomplishments touted this week by Obama and his White House press office. Just ask the dealers who lost their businesses; the Ford Motor Co. leaders who were warned against saying they "didn't take the money" in ad campaigns to sell pickups; the bondholders in GM and Chrysler whose secured interests were subordinated in bankruptcy to the unsecured interests of the United Auto Workers.

Ask the salaried retirees of Delphi Corp., roughly 22,000 of them. Their pensions were sacrificed as the price of getting GM and Delphi out of bankruptcy, even as union pensions and the pensions of longtime salaried colleagues at GM remained mostly intact. They're legacies of the bailouts, too, and they're still battling the government in federal court for answers and compensation.

The legacy of the Obama auto bailouts is neither simple nor uncomplicated. It was not a theoretical choice between government and private markets, not when global finance markets essentially froze in late 2008 and the first part of 2009. Who, exactly, was willing to back what would have been the largest debtor-in-possession financing in American history — and do it quickly?

No one. Decisions, presidential or mundane, seldom can be removed from their historical context. A collapsing Detroit auto industry endangered more than the workforces of two automakers. It threatened an industry that is an engine of the American economy, including Ford, the U.S. operations of Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and myriad suppliers.

Like or loathe his politics, the president and his auto task force made tough calls to save companies that spent decades "going out of business," as former Ford CEO Alan Mulally frequently said. They rescued the institution of the UAW whose leaders' increasing demands of the automakers essentially created huge pension-and-health care providers who happened to build cars and trucks.

They ignored unfavorable polls, twisted bankruptcy procedures later upheld by federal courts, and defied tradition in American business to prevent collapse of a cornerstone industry to the national economy. Obama and his auto task force didn't "Let Detroit go Bankrupt" in the words of the infamous headline on Mitt Romney's New York Times op-ed; they made it go bankrupt.

In the process, they (or the people they tapped to run GM and what is now FCA) cashiered entire cadres of leadership at the bankrupt companies. They demanded rationalization of brands, dealers and plant capacity that the Kings of Detroit for too long believed they could carry. They barred the UAW from striking companies rescued with cash fronted by American taxpayers.

A net positive? It has been for this town. GM is running at or above double-digit operating margins in its North American business and booking strong returns on invested capital. FCA's car and truck sales, powered especially by its iconic Jeep brand, continues to out-perform expectations. Shares in Delphi, a necessary by-product of the bailout, have quadrupled in value since their initial public offering in 2011.

Still, rescuing Detroit from itself exacted costs that cannot be excised from history because they're deemed inconvenient to the narrative preferred by the president and his handlers. In his 30-minute walk of the North American International Auto Show, Obama focused on the hybrids and electric vehicles his policies are designed to promote.

The problem: the market isn't embracing them the way the politicians intended. Electrics and hybrids accounted for less than 2.5 percent of the U.S. market last year, despite massive investment in them by Detroit's automakers and their foreign-owned rivals.

Tough federal fuel-economy mandates that require fleets to deliver a corporate average of 54.5 mpg by 2025 — hailed by the White House Press Office in background briefings — are instead emerging as a major obstacle industry leaders are not at all sure they can hurdle successfully.

Not if gas prices stay low or moderately low for long. And not if the buying public's obvious love affair with trucks, crossovers and SUVs burns as hotly as it has the past few years. Team Obama can tout their policies all they want, but the public isn't really buying what they're hoping to sell — not now, anyway.

Nor are the equity markets. Shares in GM and Ford continue to trade in a narrow band, evidence that smart money remains unconvinced the earnings powerhouses of today can successfully navigate another recession without outside help. They also want evidence Detroit can parry the competitive threat of Silicon Valley and come out winners, at least some of the time.

Seven years ago, Detroit got a second chance. There won't be a third one.


Detroit News readers name
Continental Best of Show

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
Jan 20, 2016

The Lincoln Continental earned top honors as Ford Motor Co. picked up three awards for its new cars and trucks in The Detroit News annual Readers' Choice Awards.

Roughly 100 judges voted Lincoln's new flagship sedan as Best of Show amongst all the reveals at the 2016 North American International Auto show. The Continental sports three engine options: a base, 3.7-liter V-6, 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6, and a powerful, 3.0-liter twin-turbo six with 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. It will be built at Ford Motor Co.'s Flat Rock Assembly Plant and will hit showrooms late this year.

As he presented the various honors on Tuesday, Detroit News Editor and Publisher Jonathan Wolman noted that the Readers' Choice Awards are "the only honors bestowed by the people actually buying and driving the vehicles on display here."

The announcement was made Tuesday at a Detroit Economic Club annual luncheon with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.

Ford also took Next Up in my Garage honors for its refreshed Ford Fusion and Baddest Off-Road Vehicle for its Raptor performance pickup. Both vehicles will be available later this year.

General Motors Co. won three awards: Best Road-Trip Ride for its Cadillac Escalade, Best Future Concept for its Buick Avista and Most Eco-Friendly for its Chevy Volt.

Fiat Chrysler Automobile NV's Chrysler brand won two awards: Best Family Fun Finder for its new Pacifica minivan and The Most for your Money for its 200 sedan.

Foreign automakers took home a pair of awards. The Lexus LC 500 took home Sleekest City Ride honors and the BMW I8 won for Coolest Technology.


Ontario freezes hospital parking rates, offers long-term discount

Health Minister Eric Hoskins says 3-year freeze
takes effect now, discounts to begin Oct. 1

CBC News Posted: Jan 19, 2016

The Ontario government is freezing the price of parking at all the province's hospitals and forcing every hospital that charges more than $10 a day to offer discounts for longer-term users.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins made the announcement during a news conference Monday at Women's College Hospital in Toronto.

"We believe that parking fees should not be a barrier to health care," Hoskins said. "This announcement will make a difference for those who regularly visit our hospitals."

Effective immediately, parking rates at all hospitals in Ontario are frozen for next three years, and after that, price increases can be no more than the rate of inflation. Hoskins said

Starting Oct. 1, all hospitals with a parking rate of more than $10 per day must offer five-day, 10-day and 30-day passes at a 50 per cent discount off the daily rate, with full in-and-out privileges.

Parking nets hospitals $100M yearly

Susan Kuczynski told the news conference that she has seen the price of hospital parking soar since she began frequent visits to Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children in 1995, when her daughter was diagnosed with cancer.

The changes "will go a long way toward alleviating this particular burden for families," said Kuczynski, who works as the parent liaison with the group Ontario Parents Advocating for Children with Cancer.

Parking fees generate about $100 million annually for the province's hospitals, Hoskins said. He said the policy change will have a fiscal impact but could not immediately say what that would be.

The umbrella group representing the 150 hospitals in the province is not pleased with the announcement.
Effective immediately, parking rates at all hospitals in Ontario are frozen for the next three years, and after that, price increases can be no more than the rate of inflation. (CBC)

"For the past 10 years, government has actively encouraged hospitals to generate revenue to help fund hospital operations," said Anthony Dale, president of the Ontario Hospital Association, in a news release. "The decision to cut revenues could not come at a worse time."

Dale said hospitals are now at a "turning point" after four years without an increase in base operating funding and face "extremely challenging" budget choices.

Kathleen Wynne's Liberals promised in the 2014 election campaign to cap hospital parking fees.

The government estimates that 900,000 people will benefit from the discounted parking fees each year.

People across Canada – including those living in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador – have voiced their anger at the state of hospital parking costs.

A CBC Marketplace story on hospital parking found that more than half of Canadians say the price affects how often they can visit a hospital, or for how long.

Hospital parking: The real cost for patients (CBC Marketplace)



Ford's Focus RS begins
production in Germany

Focus RS

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
Jan 19, 2016

Ford Motor Co. has started production of its new Focus RS at its plant in Saarlouis, Germany, but U.S. customers will have to wait until spring before the small car hits stateside showrooms.

The Dearborn automaker announced late last week that the first hot hatch has rolled off the assembly line there, and released a new video describing the car's four drive modes.

The Focus RS will get 350 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, and can hit a maximum speed of 165 miles per hour.

The all-wheel-drive performance car can go from 0-62 miles per hour in 4.7 seconds, and is powered by a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine equipped with a six-speed manual transmission. Pricing will start at $36,605, Ford has said.

Drivers can select from four different drive modes including: normal, sport, track or drift mode.

Ford last introduced a rally sport version of its Focus five years ago for the 2009 model, and before that in 2002 — but those cars were sold only in Europe. The latest car will be the 30th vehicle to wear Ford's RS badge. Ford said it will compete directly against the Subaru WRX STI, VW Golf R and Mitsubishi EVO.

The Focus RS is one of 12 performance vehicles Ford has pledged to bring customers globally through 2020. It joins the Focus ST, Fiesta ST, Shelby GT350 and GT350R, and the Raptor and GT supercar in Ford's performance lineup.


Ford: Europe profitable,
but there's still 'work to do'

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
January 18, 2016

Ford Motor Co.'s transformation plans in its long-struggling European region are finally paying off.

The Dearborn automaker surprised in 2015 by turning a profit there for the first time since 2011, and the automaker's sales there rose 11 percent as well.

A combination of rising consumer confidence, pent-up demand and a slew of new products helped the Blue Oval sell 1.3 million vehicles in its 20 traditional European markets.

It became the No. 1 seller of commercial vehicles there, thanks to the Transit vans and Ranger pickup.

But executives expect more.

"Just being profitable is not enough of a goal; we still have work to do," Roelant de Waard, vice president of marketing, sales and service, Ford of Europe, told The Detroit News in an interview.

"We believe the industry will continue to rise, maybe with not the same speed, but our expectation is it's to go up again."

De Waard said the industry sold about 16 million vehicles in Europe in 2015, and he foresees that rising to 16.5 million in 2016. He said the entire industry performed well in Europe last year as customers looked to buy more expensive vehicles.

"They sometimes choose smaller vehicles, but they have to mean something to them emotionally," he said. "From premium to sporty entries, everything with an emotion to it is doing well."

De Waard said Ford's diesel options on its performance vehicles have helped sales. Sales of the automaker's performance cars — including the Fiesta ST, Focus ST, Focus ST diesel and Mustang — were up 62 percent in 2015.

He said there's been no negative fallout from Volkswagen AG's emissions cheating scandal.

"That has stayed remarkably stable, in fact, slightly increased in our case," he said of interest in diesels in Europe. "We do not see that the general interest has gone down. There are more questions asked, but it's very important we can say we do not have cheat devices, and that has satisfied the customers."

Ford's SUV sales also performed well — up 31 percent in 2015 — thanks to offerings like the Kuga and EcoSport. Ford will launch eight new or updated vehicles in Europe this year — one more than in 2015.

De Waard said France, Germany, the UK and Spain all performed well, but Russia continues to be a trouble spot because of economic and geopolitical concerns. Automakers like General Motors Co. have announced plans to pull out of Russia, but Ford has committed to remaining there.

"We have a bit of a more long-term view," de Waard said. "Our expectation is this can turn around."


First contract reached
at Casino Rama

ORILLIA, ON, Jan. 17, 2016 /CNW/ - Workers at Casino Rama, one of Ontario's largest casino resorts, have negotiated a first contract with the resort.

"These new members have done a fantastic job representing the interests of their co-workers. First by helping them join Unifor, and now by negotiating a first contract," said Deb Tveit, Assistant to Unifor National President Jerry Dias.

"The bargaining team is unanimously recommending this collective agreement for ratification."

Details of the collective agreement will be released once it is ratified by the members at Casino Rama, located near Orillia, Ontario. A ratification vote is expected in the coming days.

Almost 1,700 workers at Rama, including dealers, cashiers, slot workers, food and beverage staff, environmental services, finance, gift shop attendants, hotel, valet, entertainment and other staff, voted to join Unifor last year by a vote of more than 71 per cent.

They joined more than 15,000 hospitality workers, including more than 7,000 at casinos, already represented by Unifor across Canada. Unifor also represents workers at Caesars Windsor, Great Blue Heron Gaming, Manitoba Lotteries Corp and other gaming sites, as well as several hotels across Canada.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 310,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.


Two dealers allege Fiat
Chrysler falsifying sales

Michael Wayland,
The Detroit News
January 15, 2016

Two Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV dealerships have filed a civil racketeering suit against the automaker, alleging the company offered dealers money to report unsold vehicles as sold.

The federal lawsuit alleges that the automaker's North American-based operations "knowingly endorses and encourages the false reporting of motor vehicle sales by directly rewarding its local managers … with monetary and quarterly bonuses which are directly related to reported vehicle sales numbers," among other claims.

The suit accuses the company of paying tens of thousands of dollars to dealers to report false sales at the end of the month. The timing, according to the suit, allowed the sales to be reported for that particular month, only then to be "backed-out" on the first of the following month before the factory warranty on the vehicles could be processed and start to run.

Fiat Chrysler says it is aware that the lawsuit was filed but "has not yet been served." The company says the "claim is without merit" and filed concurrently with the automaker discussing with the dealer group the need to meet its obligations under some of its dealer agreements.

"The company is confident in the integrity of its business processes and dealer arrangements and intends to defend this action vigorously," reads the company statement.

The dealers filing the suit, which was first reported by trade publication Automotive News, are part of Illinois-based Napleton Automotive Group. One is located in a Chicago suburb. The other is located north of West Palm Beach in Florida.

The establishments are seeking a judgment against the automaker as well as unspecified monetary damages that include attorney's fees, costs and "such other relief as this court deems just and equitable." A lawyer for the dealer group did not immediately respond for comment.

The suit specifically alleges that dealership principal Edward Napleton was asked to falsely sales of 40 vehicles in exchange for $20,000 that would have been distributed to him "as a credit under the disguise as cooperative ("Co-Op") advertising support." Napleton, the suit says, "soundly rejected" the alleged proposal.

FCA US has recorded 69-consecutive months of year-over-year sales gains — the current longest running streak in the industry. The sales streak has been touted as recently as this week at the 2016 North American International Auto Show as a resounding achievement of the company's plans.

Fiat Chrysler shares on the New York Stock Exchange were down 5 percent during early afternoon trading to $7.48.


Detroit's asset in
race? The car

Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
January 14, 2016

Henry Ford wouldn't recognize the industry he helped create.

On the floor of this year's Detroit auto show, talk isn't of labor costs or manufacturing efficiency, of brand positioning or near-term financial survival. It's who can meet tough federal fuel economy rules, and who'll be first to market with a car that drives itself — something even a consummate dreamer like ol' Henry probably wouldn't have bothered to contemplate.

"If not us, who," says Bill Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Co. "My great-grandfather changed the way the world moved with the Model T. The opportunity we have in front of us is very different than what my great-grandfather faced. No one company can do it alone."

That's why the big business mash-up of mid-decade is underway, the free-for-all of automotive and Silicon Valley players looking for smart partnerships that will stake competitive advantage without unnecessarily incinerating capital needed to finance their core business.

The assumption, given the auto industry's comparatively low profit margins, high capital costs and small earnings multiples (especially in Detroit), is that Silicon Valley indisputably holds the upper hand. Its biggest players have the cash, the speed, the culture and the cred, the thinking goes, to push the lowly auto business into the 21st century.

The biggest thing the tech gods don't have is what long-time industry watcher David Cole calls the automotive "real estate," especially hardware priced for the masses. It's the cars and trucks, the SUVs and crossovers, that technology commands but does not yet design, produce or shape into packages customers want to buy.

Without the metal, rubber and knack for integrating the technology into the real estate and then building it efficiently, there is no self-driving car — unless, of course, the likes of Apple Inc. acquires or buys a stake in, say, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV in the kind of audacious deal FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne would love.

The "real benefactor" of the technological transformation sweeping the auto industry will be the companies that own the "real estate these things are embedded in — like a car," says Cole, chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. "That may be the high ground in what's going on. That's a really big deal.

"You cannot bet the future on the basis of what we have now. We're in the middle of a big, tough, interesting period ... and everyone is not going to be a winner coming out of it."

Everyone seldom is. A Detroit-based industry just seven years removed from its existential reckoning now faces new challenges from government regulations and nimble, aggressive tech players that are likely to make quadrennial contract talks with the United Auto Workers look enjoyable, chiefly because the stakes are so high.

Let's be clear: The likes of GM and Ford are not embracing the autonomous/electrified/zero-emission space because of some epiphany forcing them to embrace a world their industry historically disdained. They're doing it to seize competitive advantage and hedge their bets; to develop new business to offset lost sales and save their companies from the twin threats of government regulation and well-capitalized challengers from Silicon Valley.

They're doing it because a federal regulatory regime stiffened while the industry was preoccupied with its survival and beholden to the U.S. Treasury. There's no guarantee the Obama-era fuel-economy targets will survive the next administration intact, but it's highly unlikely they would be reversed substantially.

"It isn't a question of do I want it or don't I want it," says Carlos Ghosn, chairman of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. "It's happening. This is not going to be an easy shift, but I do not see how we can escape it."

They probably can't, even with oil prices plunging and expected to stay low. Shifting priorities in urban areas, coupled with ride-sharing software that can make anyone with a car into a taxi, means more people are likely to own fewer cars.

Tough federal fuel-economy targets, wrested from the industry during the darker days of 2009 and 2010, make it likely that most automakers will be unable to meet targets nine years from now of 54.5 mpg without boosts from sales of electric and hybrid vehicles.

The "2025 numbers are very high numbers," says Marchionne, technically doable but not at all guaranteed to be commercially viable. An inconvenient truth, rendered in today's environment of low fuel prices and hot sales, is that electrics and hybrids account for 2.5 percent of the market, hardly a sign of robust consumer demand.

Detroit ignores that segment and the tech-sector threat at its peril. Even if traditionalists are right and consumers cling to their gas engines, at least for the near term, the industry risks ceding the market for electrics and non-traditional mobility to tech players large and small looking to extend their reach into an auto space perceived to be ripe for the taking.

More, the simple truth is that the largest, fastest-growing auto market in the world — China — is demanding cleaner and smarter next-generation technologies to combat its urban scourges of pollution and traffic congestion. Those who can offer solutions can bid for the business; those who can't lose.

GM's Chevrolet Bolt electric car, unveiled this month in Las Vegas and at the Detroit show, will be a prominent test case of a critical proposition: Will American buyers plump for an electric compact that promises more range (200 miles per charge) at a lower price ($30,000 after federal incentives)?

If they don't, a thorough rethink will be necessary — an exercise even ol' Henry would recognize.


Our Sincerest Sympathies to
Barb Morrison and family
on the passing of her Mom
on January 10, 2016

Erma Viola Morrison (nee Wilson)

Erma MorrisonMom passed away peacefully at Etobicoke General Hospital, on her 86th birthday, Sunday, January 10, 2016, Erma Viola Morrison, Kleinburg, beloved wife of the late Herb Morrison. Dear mother of Christine and Brian Burgess, Raymond and Victoria, Timothy and Linda, Barbara and Steve Koloff, Susan and Douglas Burbidge. Loving grandmother of Harvey, Luke, Lori, Stephen, Jessica, Matthew, Stephen, Ashley, Jimmy, Mark, Samantha and Charlotte. Now holding great grandchild, the late Matthew, in her loving arms. Our Nanny was loved by all and will be forever missed! Dear daughter of the late Jack and Vidy Wilson. Predeceased by brothers Murray, Les and Doug. Survived by sisters-in-law Leny and Doreen.

The family will receive their friends at :
Egan Funeral Home,
203 Queen Street S. (Hwy. 50)

Saturday, January 16
12 noon until time of funeral service
in the chapel at 2 o'clock.

Interment Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bolton.


If desired, memorial donations may be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.


Lincoln Continental takes
style cues from Jaguar

The silk flies off the all new Lincoln Continental during the automaker's press conference on Day2 of press previews at the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center in Detroit on Jan. 12, 2016.  Robin Buckson, The Detroit News

Henry Payne,
The Detroit News
January 13, 2016

Lincoln rolled out its production-ready, 2017 Continental flagship sedan at the Detroit auto show Tuesday morning, as Ford's premium brand continues to redefine itself as an elegant, refined choice in the luxury market.

Wearing the "new face of Lincoln," the Continental ditches the old, winged grille for Jaguar XF-like styling cues. But where the English brand and its athletic German peers — the BMW 5-series and Mercedes E-Class — command the most expensive prices in the midsize segment, the all-wheel-drive Lincoln will sticker below $50,000, while boasting XL proportions.

True to the Continental concept that debuted at last year's New York Auto Show, the production model stands out for its best-in-class 30-way front seats, art deco Revel audio speakers, and roomy rear seats.

"Our customers want to experience the world effortlessly and seamlessly," said Eric Turner, Lincoln brand manager.

The Continental resurrects a badge that Lincoln retired in 2002. It re-introduces Lincoln to the American market and the growing luxury sedan segment in China and the Middle East, where plush rear quarters are valued by chauffeur-driven executives. The Continental concept also appeared in the Shanghai and Dudai auto shows last year. Lincoln opened 33 new stores in China in 2015 and expects that number to grow to 60 this year.

Much as Ford looked to Aston Martin to give its mainstream Fusion sedan upscale looks, the Continental mirrors Jaguar's classic fascia and sleek flanks, while maintaining Lincoln's signature, horizontal taillamps. In addition to its nose job, the car is low and more athletic than the MKS model it replaces.

But the Lincoln's distinguishing features begin on entry. When approached with the key fob, signature Continental front head-and-taillights glow, side mirrors shine Lincoln's logo on the ground, and the doorhandles illuminate. Touch the raised handles and the door swings open effortlessly. Close it softly and an electric motor sucks the door back into place.

"This car is about attention to detail," said Chief Program Engineer Mike Celentino. "We have 50 patents on the seat alone. We call it the 'perfect-position seat.' "

With controls located on each door, the available 30-way thrones contain separate bladders for the upper and lower back as well as each thigh so that occupants can adjust the seat precisely to their body type. Other available features include a 19-speaker Revel audio system, open-pore wood highlights, and the full-length moon-roof that Lincoln pioneered.

Rear seat passengers can adjust the roof's automatic shade as well as the front passenger seat for legroom.

Under the hood, the Continental sports three engine options: a base, 3.7-liter V-6, 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6, and a powerful, 3.0-liter twin-turbo six with 400 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. Built at Ford's Flat Rock Assembly plant, the D-segment Continental shares a front-wheel-drive platform with the MKX crossover and Fusion sedan — but its standard AWD system will feature rear torque-vectoring for quicker handling.

Determined to balance elegance with technology, designer David Woodhouse said the Lincoln doesn't "have tech for the sake of tech." The sedan boasts no industry firsts in safety, but offers a cocoon of features including collision-assist forward radar, adaptive cruise control that can come to a stop, pedestrian-collision recognition, and auto-hold brakes.

Lincoln sales grew by 7 percent in 2015 on the strength of its MKC and all-new MKX sport utility vehicles. MKX sales grew by 77 percent alone, but the Continental sets the brand's tone in design and image.


Ford to add 4 all-new SUVs
to lineup in next few years

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
January 12, 2016

Ford Motor Co. will add four all-new sport utility vehicles to its Ford and Lincoln brand vehicle lineups in a "few years" time, the automaker confirmed Monday.

The Dearborn automaker would not comment directly on what vehicles it would introduce, nor would it define what a "few years" means. SUVs are among the hottest segments in the auto industry now as consumers are choosing them over somewhat more fuel-efficient cars in the wake of lower gas prices.

"We study lots of things," Ford President of the Americas Joe Hinrichs told reporters Monday. "SUVs are hot, no question about it. We have a strong brand for SUVs and a strong customer base. Opportunities for SUVs are important to us."

Ford's SUV lineup includes the Edge, Escape, Explorer and Expedition. Lincoln has the MKC and larger MKX, MKT and Navigator.

Ford said Monday that one in three cars in the U.S. market sold today are SUVs, and it's expecting that eventually in the next four years, SUVs will make up 40 percent of the U.S. auto market.

Ford-brand SUVs totaled 65,675 sales last month – a 13 percent increase versus a year ago, for the best December performance since 2003. Edge sales rose 29 percent, Escape sales rose 9 percent and Explorer sales rose 14 percent. MKC sales rose 88 percent, while MKX and MKT sales fell.

One of Ford's likeliest options would be a subcompact SUV. The automaker sells the subcompact EcoSport in Europe. Former CEO Alan Mulally said previously that Ford would eventually bring the EcoSport stateside, but didn't offer a timeline.

When asked if the EcoSport would easily be transferred from Europe to the United States, Hinrichs said, "I don't know."

Lincoln executives have said the brand would introduce two more new vehicles to its luxury lineup by the end of the decade, but have so far declined to offer any details.


Honda Civic, Volvo XC90
named car, truck of the year

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
Jan 11, 1015

The Honda Civic and Volvo XC90 kicked off the Detroit auto show by winning Car and Truck of the Year honors, respectively.

The Civic beat out the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata sports car and the Chevrolet Malibu for the award.

Volvo beat out a truck/SUV field that included the Honda Pilot and Nissan Titan pickup.

Foreign automakers, led by Honda, dominated the nominees. For only the second time in the award's 23-year history the Detroit's Big Three automakers were shut out of the truck category.

Both awards are intended to recognize a car and truck that set new benchmarks in the classes in which they compete. A jury of 57 journalists from the U.S. and Canada evaluate dozens of vehicles on factors including value for the dollar, innovation, handling, performance, safety and driver satisfaction.

To be eligible for the awards, a vehicle must have been "substantially changed from the previous model and must go on sale shortly after the announcement of the award."

Ford's F-150 and Volkswagen's Golf/GTI won the 2015 awards. Chevrolet swept the 2014 awards for General Motors Co. with the Corvette and Silverado.

Detroit automakers have swept both awards eight times — 1995, 1996, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 — since the awards started more than 20 years ago at the North American International Auto Show.


Ford CEO Predicts Major
Advancements for Smart Mobility

January 10, 2016

The smart mobility strategy announced last year and developed by Ford aimed to solve the problems created by the estimated 1.2 billion people worldwide who spend 50 minutes per day driving.

It's Press Day at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) when major electronics and automotive manufacturers make big announcements prior to the start of the conference. Last year, Ford's CEO, Mark Fields, went on stage and delivered a keynote to highlight their vision for the future of smart mobility. This year, Ford kicked off press day by announcing major advancements and progress toward realizing smart mobility.

The smart mobility strategy announced last year and developed by Ford aimed to solve the problems created by the estimated 1.2 billion people worldwide who spend 50 minutes per day driving. Growing urbanization along with growth in the middle class around the world results in air quality problems and changing attitudes toward transportation. Fields is excited by the progress Ford has made in the past year announcing progresses and launches in each of these areas.

Ford continues to invest in the development of Sync technology with Sync 3 and announced the support of Apple Car Play and Android Auto in all 2017 vehicles; 2016 model vehicles will receive an upgrade later this year. In addition to supporting these smartphone platforms, Ford also announced the AppLink platform that is designed to support more Sync 3 native apps by third-party developers.

Customer Experience
Ford announced a partnership with Amazon promising tight integration to the Amazon Echo. The Echo is a wireless speaker called Alexa. It acts as an automated personal assistant in your home. You can check your calendar or turn on your lights. This integration will allow you to ask about your car's systems as well, "Alexa, please check the battery status of my electric car". Alexa will reply with the details, "Your car has an electric range of 50 kilometres," for example. You can also ask Alexa to remote start your car and even open the garage door from inside your vehicle using voice command to Sync 3 integrated to Echo as you approach your home.

In the area of mobility, Ford announced they are working with TechStars, a startup accelerator in Detroit, to further develop entrepreneurs interested in building future mobility solutions to address the challenge areas in Ford's strategy; customer experience, analytics, multi-modal trip integration, and flexible ownership for vehicles. Twelve startups will receive $120,000 in funding. Deadline for submissions is March 22.

Connectivity & Data Analytics
Ford is partnering with professional drone maker DJI to use the connectivity capabilities of Sync 3 and the data analytics capabilities of AppLink to help the United Nations develop superior surveillance capabilities in areas affected by disasters. They showed a drone following and communicating directly with a Ford F150 to help rescue workers find people in need and potentially save lives.

Autonomous Vehicles
A survey by insurance shopping website Kanetix.ca revealed that one in four Canadians can't wait for the driverless car. This further confirms that Ford is heading in the right direction as they continue to invest heavily in the development of autonomous vehicles by tripling their autonomous vehicle testing fleet. At CES they announced their third generation of autonomous vehicles with the latest LIDAR technology by Velodyne. Lidar uses lasers to give vehicles awareness of the surrounding environment. It's the core technology that makes autonomous driving possible. Lidar sensors are now very small – the size of a hockey puck.

In the coming years, Ford will continue research and development efforts to achieve level 4 and eventually level 5 – full automation – in their vehicles.

In closing, Ford has stayed focused and is in the process of transforming their business to be more than just a car company but a company dedicated to solving the world's mobility challenges into 2020 and beyond.


Ford sells 1.1M vehicles in
China in '15, a new record

Associated Press
January 8, 2016

New York — Ford reported record sales of about 1.1 million vehicles in China last year.

The Dearborn-based automaker said Friday that its 2015 sales in the country were up 3 percent from the previous year.

It also set a new monthly sales record in December, selling 124,768 vehicles. That's up 27 percent from the prior-year period.

Ford Motor Co.'s passenger car joint venture, Changan Ford Automobile, broke its annual and December sales records. For 2015, the joint venture sold 836,425 vehicles. It's a 7 percent rise from 2014. It sold 96,960 vehicles in December, a 49 percent jump from the year-ago period.

Demand for its new Mondeo gave a boost to Changan's annual and December sales performances, the company said.

Annual sales of sport utility vehicles like the Ecosport, Kuga, Edge, Explorer and Everest rose 13 percent to 274,188 vehicles. December sales of SUVs surged 56 percent to 32,290 vehicles.

Jiangling Motors Corp., Ford's commercial vehicle investment in China, reported a 6 percent decline in annual sales and a 12 percent drop in December sales.

On Tuesday when U.S. auto sales were reported, Ford came in as the best-selling individual brand for the sixth straight year, with sales of just over 2.5 million. The company sold 780,354 F-Series trucks in the U.S. in 2015 — more than one every minute — making it the nation's top-selling vehicle.

Ford's stock gained 15 cents to $12.85 before the market open.


Ford pension reporting change
boosts profit-sharing

Melissa Burden,
The Detroit News
January 7, 2016

Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. said Thursday it opted to change the way it reports or accounts for pensions on Dec. 31 of last year, resulting in a $1.5 billion gain to its 2015 full year earnings pre-tax profit. The switch will put at least another $709 into the pockets of each of Ford's 52,900 U.S. hourly workers as part of their profit-sharing checks early this year. Salaried workers who receive bonuses, excluding corporate officers, also will benefit from the move.

Profit-sharing checks will be distributed in February or March. Ford hourly workers got $6,900 in profit sharing last year.

With the accounting change, Ford company now expects to earn between $10 billion and $11 billion for 2015, excluding special items. Ford had previously said it expected to earn $8.5 billion to $9.5 billion in 2015.

"The change we are announcing today in how we report accumulated costs related to our pension and OPEB (other post-retirement employee benefits) plans will show that our operating results were even stronger, particularly in North America and Europe," said Bob Shanks, Ford's chief financial officer, in a statement.

As a result, Ford is revising its financial results for the past five years, dating back to 2011. For the first nine months of 2015, Ford says it posted pre-tax profits of $8.36 billion, up $1.22 billion.

North America pre-tax profits for the same time period improved by $709 million to $7.32 billion. The company's profit-sharing formula for hourly workers pays $1,000 for every $1 billion in pre-tax profit earned.

The final amount will be determined by Ford's full 2015 North American pre-tax earnings. Ford is scheduled to report fourth quarter and full-year 2015 results on Jan. 28.

Ford also increased its pre-tax results by $509 million in Europe in the first nine months of 2015. It says its pre-tax profit is now $128 million .

Ford said it had been studying the change to mark-to-market pension and other post-retirement employee benefits for five years. It gives the company greater transparency of its operating results, the automaker says. It also helps to better compare Ford with key automotive competitors and follows the practices of many international companies.

"The effect of this change will be to remove amortization of prior periods, gains or losses, from the past operating results," said Stuart Rowley, Ford vice president and controller. "The effect of this will be to provide a greater transparency to our business units operating results and also make our reported results more comparable with automotive competitor OEMS."

The move also increases Ford's North America operating margin — its operating earnings or income divided by revenue — for the first nine months of 2015 by 1 percentage point to 10.9 percent. The company's total automotive operating margin goes up by 1.2 percentage points to 7.1 percent for the same time period.

Dozens of large U.S. corporations have adopted mark-to-market, which is defined as an immediate recognition accounting because companies including now Ford recognize pension gains and losses in the years they happen instead of amortizing them over many years. Ford going forward, including in the fourth quarter in 2015, will record any change to pensions as a special item associated with corporate profits instead of in Ford's automotive business units.

Ford is believed to be the first of the Detroit Three automakers to use the methodology, said Stacey Steslicki, Ford's controller of global retirement benefits.

There is no change or impact to employee pensions, on cash funding, or on pension funding status with the new reporting method, Rowley said.

Ford stock was trading down about 1 percent early Thursday. It fell 4.45 percent Wednesday to close at $13.11 a share.


Auto industry sets all-time
sales record in 2015

Michael Wayland and
Melissa Burden,
The Detroit News
January 6, 2016

The U.S. auto industry sold more cars and trucks in 2015 than ever before, with Detroit automakers reporting their best sales since the mid-2000s and several foreign manufacturers posting all-time records.

Led by sales of pickups, sport utility vehicles and crossovers, automakers sold 17.47 million vehicles last year — besting the previous record of 17.41 million set in 2000 and posting a 5.7 percent gain from 2014, according to Autodata Corp. The record was closer than many analysts expected, as December sales came in slightly less than many projected.

"Low gas prices certainly helped put money in people's pockets, which goes along with the overall feeling good about the economy, and led to all the SUV and truck purchases this year," said Jessica Caldwell, director of industry analysis for Edmunds.com. "It was really the year of the SUV."

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Ford Motor Co. reported their best annual U.S. sales since 2005 and 2006, respectively, while General Motors Co. had its best year since 2007. Other automakers — Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co., Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp., BMW Group and Subaru — recorded all-time records. Industry observers expect the 2015 record to be eclipsed this year.

GM was the U.S. industry's sales leader last year, selling nearly 3.1 million vehicles, up 5 percent. Ford sold 2.6 million, up 5.3 percent. Fiat Chrysler sold more than 2.2 million, up 7.3 percent from 2014.

Topping the sales charts in 2015 was Ford's F-Series with 780,354 sold. That made it America's best-selling pickup for 39 consecutive years and the best-selling vehicle for 34 straight years. The Ford brand remained the best-selling brand in the United States for a sixth-straight year, with more than 2.5 million cars and trucks sold.

Toyota Motor Corp.'s midsize Camry sedan was the best-selling car for a 14th consecutive year, with sales at 429,355, level with 2014.

"2015 was a standout year," Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota Division, told reporters in a call Tuesday. Toyota sold nearly 2.5 million vehicles last year, up 5.3 percent.

There was little market share shift in 2015. GM led with 17.6 percent (down 0.2 percent), followed by Ford (14.9 percent), Toyota (14.3 percent) and Fiat Chrysler (12.8 percent) keeping their top spots from 2014. No automaker gained or lost more than 0.2 percentage points of market share from 2014 to 2015.

Sales last month set a December record at 1.64 million, up 9 percent year-over-year, as buyers took advantage of five selling weekends and two additional sales days vs. December 2014. Some analysts expected December to top 1.7 million and come close to the industry monthly record of more than 1.8 million set in July 2005.

2015 marked the fifth time in six years that light-duty trucks, including some SUVs and crossovers, outsold cars. Trucks accounted for 55.7 percent, or 9.7 million, of vehicles sold last year, up more than 1.1 million from 2014. That's the segment's highest percentage since 2004, according to Autodata Corp. The shift in consumer preferences amid low gas prices hurt car sales; their numbers declined by more than 177,000 from the year before.

"Low interest rates and low gas prices provided Christmas presents to most carmakers, as the 2015 sales year ended with a bang," said Jack R. Nerad, Kelley Blue Book executive editorial director and executive market analyst.

KBB reports that even though pickups from Detroit automakers were the three best-selling vehicles in 2015, small SUVs now lead the overall industry in market share.

National Automobile Dealers Association chief economist Steven Szakaly expects automakers to increase buyer incentives on cars this year by at least 10 percent, as demand for pickups, crossovers and SUVs continues to rise. He expects sales of trucks to increase to 57 percent of the industry this year.

More good news for 2016

Many industry analysts expect 2016 new-vehicle sales to top 2015, which would make for a second-consecutive year of record sales and a seventh-consecutive year of annual increases.

Expectations from industry analysts range between 17.5 million and 18 million or more, as favorable factors such as low fuel prices, a rebounding labor market and consumer confidence continue.

"In terms of the macroeconomic environment, we expect that many of the favorable factors that supported a record 2015 industry performance will remain in place this year," said Ford chief economist Emily Kolinski Morris, who declined to release Ford's 2016 sales outlook Tuesday.

GM, which also did not release its 2016 forecast, said it is expecting a second-consecutive year of record industry sales in 2016.

"The single most important pieces are the ongoing gains in employment and the growth in personal income," Mustafa Mohatarem, GM's chief economist, said in a statement. "When you add in lower energy prices, it's easy to see why consumer spending is strong."

Szakaly, whose Virginia-based NADA represents about 16,000 new-car and truck dealerships, expects sales to rise to 17.7 million or higher in 2016 before leveling off.

"Long-term sustainably of this market at or above 18 million is questionable," he said. "It's still going to be a great year in 2016, but there's always this worry between profitability and sales at the (automaker) level."

Chasing sales and market share over profits is one reason why GM and the former Chrysler went bankrupt amid the recession in 2009. They were producing more vehicles than the market needed, and had to offer big discounts and buying incentives to move them.

Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, said it's "hard to say" if more marketing and incentives will be needed in 2016. He expects automakers to remain competitive, but believes they have learned from past mistakes.

"(The) industry's been pretty disciplined," he said during a call Tuesday with news media and analysts. "I anticipate that it will continue to be disciplined. I think everybody learned their lessons the earlier part of the last decade. We try to catch supply to demand."

Factors that could prevent 2016 from being another record year include global geopolitical issues, natural disasters and an influx of recently leased vehicles entering the market, possibly stealing some new-car sales.


Automakers expected to
report record annual sales

Michael Wayland,
The Detroit News
January 5, 2016

Automakers are expected to celebrate the new year by reporting record-setting auto sales for 2015.

Industry analysts predict the auto industry sold about 17.5 million cars and trucks last year in the United States – besting the all-time sales record of 17.4 million in 2000.

Automakers, including the Detroit Three, will report December and year-end sales on Tuesday.

Demand for pickups, sport utility vehicles and crossovers, as well as low interest rates, pent-up demand, increased leasing and credit availability all made for a perfect storm for more cars and trucks to be driven off dealers' lots than ever before.

"We're hitting a number of unprecedented numbers as we close out 2015," said Eric Lyman, TrueCar vice president of industry insights. "There's lots of significant events coming at the end of the year."

In addition to the sales record, Lyman says 2015 sales will mark six consecutive years of year-over-year sales growth – a stretch that hasn't been equaled since the 1920s. December sales also are expected to mark two other industry-firsts: Average transaction prices of more than $34,000 and an adjusted sales pace of more than 18 million for the fourth consecutive month.

Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV are expected to be the big winners for 2015, with all expected to post year-over-year increases of at least 12.5 percent compared with 2014, according to Kelley Blue Book.

Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. also are expected to report double-digit increases for 2015. General Motors Co. is expected to report a 9 percent increase from 2014.

The only major automaker not expected to report significant gains is Volkswagen AG (Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche brands).

Even before the German automaker's ongoing diesel emissions scandal involving millions of vehicles, VW's sales were lagging other automakers due to its dependency on car sales over pickups and SUVs.

Heading into December, truck sales represented 55.2 percent, or 8.7 million, of vehicles sold in the United States. That compares with passenger car sales at 44.8 percent, or 7.4 million.

If the sales trend, as expected, continued into December, it will be the lowest car market share in more than a decade.

"Low gas prices certainly helped put money in people's pockets, which goes along with the overall feeling good about the economy, and led to all the SUV and truck purchases this year," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com director of industry analysis.

"It was really the year of the SUV."

LMC Automotive and J.D. Power predict December to be the best-selling month of not only 2015, but the past decade. They expect sales hit 1.71 million, the highest number since sales reached 1.8 million in July 2005.

December traditionally is a strong vehicle sales month due to consumers taking advantage of year-end and holiday deals. The companies expect people spent more than $44 billion on new vehicles in December and $437 billion in 2015. Both figures would be records.

Karl Brauer, KBB senior analyst, said the quality of the vehicles themselves also is pulling consumers into dealerships.

"These are desirable products," Brauer said. "There are a lot of appealing aspects to getting a new car, even if you don't have an 11-year-old car or more. Cars 11 years ago just didn't have any of the things cars do now."

Auto sales are expected to continue growing in 2016. Many industry experts expect sales to reach 18 million this year.

"We're forecasting 18.1 million for 2016," Caldwell said. "We see these conditions are likely to continue … There's really no indication that these are going to slow down."


Ford to offer Apple CarPlay,
Android Auto on '17 models

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
Jan 4, 2016

Ford Motor Co. will add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on all of its 2017 model-year vehicles as the automaker works to expand its Sync 3 infotainment system and make it more compatible with smartphones.

The technologies allow drivers to use their phones for navigation, music, calls and other features. When connected, a car's dashboard screen mimics an iPhone or Android phone screen.

Ford said it will offer CarPlay and Android Auto starting on the 2017 Escape, which goes on sale this spring. Owners of 2016 vehicles equipped with Sync 3 will have an opportunity to upgrade later in the year.

In addition to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Ford plans to expand its own in-vehicle smartphone application system, called AppLink.

Ford made the announcements in advance of the CES 2016 technology trade show in Las Vegas.

"Sync allows customers to bring the smartphone technology they're comfortable with into a vehicle and use it without hassle," Don Butler, executive director, Connected Vehicle and Services for Ford, said in a statement.

General Motors Co. last May said it would offer both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on 2016 model-year Chevrolets. Ferrari has cars on the road with Apple CarPlay, and it's available in aftermarket products sold through Pioneer and Alpine.

Hyundai Motor America last year said it became the first automaker to offer Android Auto on a production car with the 2015 Hyundai Sonata. It plans to offer CarPlay early this year.

Ford said its Sync infotainment system is on about 15 million vehicles on the road, and it expects that number to jump to 43 million by 2020.

Additions to AppLink include:

■AAA/CAA: The app for AAA members in the U.S. and CAA members in Canada to allow users to see nearby gas prices use the Here2there route planning feature.

■Concur: Upon starting a car, Concur users receive a prompt asking if they want to log a business trip. The app then starts clocking mileage.

■IVOX DriverScore: Allows drivers to create their own profile of driving habits. It then generates a DriverScore, similar to a credit score, for insurance discounts.

■CitySeeker: Suggests nearby restaurants, nightlife and other attractions in more than 500 cities worldwide.


Volkswagen, Greece, Bombardier
and Trump follies mark a
forgettable 2015

The Globe and Mail
Jan 3, 2016


European Central Bank boss Mario Draghi announces a €1.1-trillion ($1.6-trillion) quantitative-easing program designed to inflate the financial assets held by his former colleagues at Goldman Sachs.

Mysteriously, air pollution readings peak at one million parts per million outside Volkswagen car dealerships in Beijing.

In a panic over reports that airline giant easyJet is about to buy Bombardier C Series jets, Airbus persuades easyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall to ditch the Canadian planes and take Airbus A320s instead by promising to pay her easyJet excess baggage fees for life. "That was worth millions to me," she says. "Au revoir, Bombardier."


HSBC hastily removes the "Tax dodge/lottery win" posters from its famous "Different points of view" ad campaign, found in airports, after the bank's Swiss subsidiary gets nailed for helping clients avoid taxes and conceal assets.

Donald Trump reveals his hair is actually a small dead animal sponsored by the Association to Bring Back Coonskin Hats.


Investors panic when U.S. Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen, in testimony before the House Committee on Things No American Understands, says she may or may not raise interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point some time before her term ends in 2018.

Terror groups rush to take credit for the invention of the bestselling, diabetes-inducing Churro Dog as it makes its debut at U.S. sport stadiums. The 1,200-calorie sundae, shaped to look like a hot dog, features three heaps of frozen yogurt, whipped cream and rivers of caramel sauces, all piled into Long John-shaped glazed doughnut.


In a euro zone voting mishap, ECB boss Mr. Draghi is appointed president of the Vatican Bank, where he immediately announces a quantitative rosary-easing program.


Immediately after Cuba drops off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, Wal-Mart, backed by the Chinese Junk Products Exporters Association, buys the entire country.

To save costs on the overbudget C Series jet program, Bombardier instructs its executives to steal soap, toilet paper, sugar packets and those little chocolates they leave on your bed at night from hotels and donate them to the company.

AOL boss Tim Armstrong vies for gold in the Executive BS Awards when he blathers on thusly about AOL's sale to Verizon: "This deal, we feel is the right deal to go forward. In the go-forward scenario, we plan on doing the deal."


The Vatican rejects Volkswagen's lucrative offer to sponsor Pope Francis's Encyclical on the Environment, Laudato Si. "Trust me," Pope Francis says. "The Church says I'm infallible and there's something unholy at VW."

The hashtag #merkelworsttouristever starts trending in Greece.


Autocorrect changes German Chancellor Angela Merkel's text message to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras from "happy to relieve you again, chum" to "happy to deceive you again, chump."

Germany buys Greece for €1 and immediately flips it to China in exchange for one million tonnes of state-subsidized steel and a year's supply of Peking duck, extra crispy.

Annoyed that Germany foiled its effort to buy Greece and turn it into a tax-free zone for its coffee operations, Starbucks launches hostile takeover bids for Albania and Montenegro.


Bombardier secretly devises plans to arm its new, but slow-selling, C Series jet with Hellfire missiles for a "test flight" over the Airbus factory.

Rumours that Apple will launch the next versions of the iPad, iPhone and iPod that look exactly like previous versions of the iPad, iPhone and iPod, and do exactly the same things, only one-hundredth of a millisecond faster, send the nerd world into rapture. "We're lining up like now," one says.

Toyota recalls all its hybrid cars after owners complain of being beaten up for righteous behaviour by Ford F-150 drivers.


Amateur video captures three U.S. Environmental Protection Agency techies gasping and covered in black soot at a car-emissions lab. "Yep, another pass for Volkswagen," one of them is overhead saying.

Apple launches the iPhone 6S with an even smaller battery to save space, ensuring no more than 17 minutes of use. The tech press reports that the iPhone 7 will come with no battery and a very long extension cord.


Pfizer boss Ian Read puts himself in contention for Hypocrite of the Year when he insists he needs to buy Ireland-based Allergan for $160-billion (U.S.) so he can move the whole company to Ireland, famous for rock-bottom tax rates. The U.S. tax bill puts Pfizer at a "tremendous disadvantage" on the R&D front, he explains, conveniently forgetting that so did the $100-billion (U.S.) Pfizer hosed out on share buybacks between 2001 and 2015.

In a $245-billion deal triggered by the soaring popularity of craft beers, AB InBev and SABMiller merge, thus guaranteeing the continued soaring popularity of craft beers.


As gasoline prices plunge, GM resumes production of the Hummer, renaming it the "Middle Finger."

Alberta sends columns of armoured chuck wagons to invade Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska after U.S. President Barack Obama kills the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have taken 830,000 barrels a day of oil from Alberta to the central United States.

Falling oil prices trigger a strategic about-face at oil sands biggie Suncor, which trades all its assets for Chipotle franchise rights in Alberta. "Digging a hole the size of Iowa in Northern Alberta to turn crude into synthetic oil at horrendous expense to keep American SUVs on the road seemed like a good idea at the time," Suncor CEO Steve Williams says.


Under pressure in Paris to make up for a decade of climate inaction under the Stephen Harper government, newbie Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna announces federal funding for an app to measure the carbon output of all her flights and limos to climate-change conferences. Initial readings are similar to PEI's carbon output.

After grinding through three finance ministers in one week, South Africa announces that one-week appointments will become permanent. "We want them out the door before they wreck the economy," South African President Jacob Zuma says.

Zipcar reports that 9 per cent of its clients have pulled over for a "quickie" while travelling on holidays – we are not making this up. Bookings immediately plummet in spite of Zipcar's new policy of providing rubber gloves to all users.


Future auto investment Unifor's
goal going into contract talks

Windsor Star
Grace Macaluso
January 2, 2016

"We are expecting to make gains for our members," said Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor. "Our priority will be job security, there's no question about that.

"There will not be a settlement in Canada unless we can find a solution for General Motors in Oshawa, Ford in Windsor and a long-term commitment for (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles') plant in Brampton."

Negotiations affecting 23,500 hourly workers at Ford, General Motors and FCA Canada aren't expected to rev up until the summer, but Unifor officials appear to be tempering wage expectations to secure product investments on this side of the border.

"We will continue to do what is in the best interests of our workers, and we'll talk to our workers because we know the expectations and what they look like," said Dino Chiodo, president of Unifor Local 444, which represents 4,500 hourly workers at the Windsor Assembly Plant. "But at the same time, understand we have to be competitive to gain future investment and maintain job security for our members."

Across the border, the Detroit Three successfully negotiated four-year contracts with the United Auto Workers, which represents more than 140,000 hourly workers at Detroit Three assembly plants. The agreements include pay hikes, signing bonuses and the elimination of the two-tier wage structure, which kept new hires on a permanent lower pay scale. Under the new deal, new hires reach wage parity with so-called legacy workers over eight years. The agreements also include investment and job commitments from the automakers.

Kristin Dziczek, director of labour and industry at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., said by the end of the new four-year deal all-in labour costs at Ford and GM will rise from $55 US an hour to $60 US an hour, while FCA's goes from $47 to $56.

Currently, Canadian unionized workers enjoy a small labour cost competitive advantage, thanks in large part to the lower loonie. "At current exchange rates, our all-in active labour costs average slightly above $45 US," said Jim Stanford, the union's outgoing chief economist.

"Evidence is clear that the Canadian plants also have an average productivity and quality advantage, which should reinforce the benefits of investing in further capital spending and product mandates for their Canadian plants," he said.

The negotiations will be held amid growing concerns about the future of auto manufacturing in Canada. Dennis DesRosiers, a Toronto-based auto industry analyst, has long warned that Canada is losing the battle over new capacity auto investment to lower-cost Mexico and the U.S. south. While Mexico is expected to continue to increase auto production over the next two decades, Canada's industry could lose half of its current manufacturing footprint, said DesRosiers.

Mexico, which currently builds about one in five North American-produced vehicles, is expected to build one in four by 2020.

"We have closed nine plants in Canada. There's 10 still open with the Oshawa consolidated line scheduled to close in 2017, " DesRosiers said. "When it closes, we will have lost half of our vehicle manufacturing capacity, and our ability to get greenfield is near zero. And we're doing little to hang on to what we have. Sometime between 2020 and 2030 we lose another three to four plants, and some time between 2030 and 2050 we have none."

Compounding the challenges facing Canada's auto industry are trade deals, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has drawn opposition from Unifor as well as the Detroit Three carmakers. They argue provisions which will eliminate the 6.1 per cent import duty on Japanese vehicles over five years will put the automakers at a competitive disadvantage.

"I'm concerned, very concerned," said FCA Canada CEO Reid Bigland, who echoed industry demands for parity with the United States when it comes to the time frame for dropping import tariffs on Japanese vehicles. The U.S. secured a 25-year schedule for passenger cars and 30 years for trucks.

Unifor has the benefit of starting contract talks after the UAW in the U.S., noted Chiodo.

"This gives us an opportunity to go back and study how their strategy worked, what the benefits were for their members and how that plays into a competitive advantage or disadvantage to us and how we place ourselves strategically going into bargaining in 2016," he said.


UAW unit publishes names of
workers opting out of union

Michael Wayland,
The Detroit News
Jan 1, 2016

A local United Auto Workers chapter in Warren is singling out workers who decide to opt out of the union.

In a recent UAW Local 412 newsletter obtained by The Detroit News, a list of 43 workers "who choose not to pay their fair share" was published alongside "conditions" that will apply to workers who opt out and no longer pay — or partially pay — union dues.

Listed conditions for "ex-UAW members" range from rudimentary things such as not being allowed to attend union functions or vote in local elections, to having to "pay all unpaid dues and/or dues in arrears as well as an initiation fee" if one decides to rejoin the union.

Singling out workers who decide to leave the union isn't unprecedented, but it's seen by some as an intimidation tactic to deter others from leaving — and pressure those who have left to rejoin.

"Pure and simple: It's intimidation," said Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy for conservative think tank the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "They're doing it because they want to incite other union members to pressure those who have exercise their right to start paying the union again.

"It's a bullying tactic. There's nothing else to it."

UAW Local 412 President Jeff Hagler denied the list is used to intimidate workers. He said the union started publishing it to ensure members and union officials know who is no longer permitted to attend union functions, vote in elections and other additional benefits.

"It's for informational purposes," he told The Detroit News on Wednesday. "It's not meant to be intimidating or anything like that."

An official with UAW International, which is on holiday leave, did not immediately respond for comment.

Kristin Dziczek, director of the industry and labor group at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, said she believes the union posting lists of workers who opt-out of the union is "pretty common."

"Is it meant to pressure workers to stay in the union? I think it could have that effect," she said. "But it's certainly a shorter list than the list of members for the purposes of who gets to vote and who gets to go to the meetings."

Last year, UAW Local 1853 in Tennessee reportedly published a "Scab Report," listing the names and work stations of more than 40 workers at the General Motors Co.'s Spring Hill Assembly Plant who were non-dues paying workers.

'Target on my back'

UAW Local 412 has been publishing the names of workers who opt out of the union in its newsletters since at least spring 2014, when a proposal to increase union dues was expected to be voted on during the UAW Constitutional Convention in Detroit.

But the most recent newsletter from UAW Local 412 went a little further and has made at least one worker uncomfortable. It singles out Robert Patchett, a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV employee who decided to drop out of the union as UAW officials negotiated a new four-year deal with the automaker earlier this year.

"I feel like I've got a target on my back now," said Patchett, a union member of nearly four years who works in the automaker's design department at FCA US headquarters in Auburn Hills.

UAW Local 412 is an amalgamated unit of engineering, public and private-sector workers. As of 2014, it represented more than 3,100 workers at several companies, including Fiat Chrysler and General Dynamics Defense. Only 1.6 percent of members who are eligible to opt out of UAW Local 412 have done so, according to the newsletter.

Patchett was the first Fiat Chrysler employee to leave UAW Local 412. The majority of previous opt-outs were in the public and health care sectors. Nearly half of the 43 workers on the most recent opt-out list work for McLaren Oakland, a medical center based in Pontiac.

The UAW Local 412 newsletter reads: "Although this person made substantial gains economically from these negotiations, he has chosen to quit paying his fair share. ... Robert Patchett will benefit directly from these negotiations by approximately $24,000 during the next four years and bonuses ranging from $4,000 to $13,000, which does not include thousands in profit sharing."

Patchett said he opted out because he didn't feel he was being appropriately represented.

"When I worked at GM, I wasn't part of the union and I didn't have a problem," said the former General Motors Co. employee of 19 years. "I come from a family where my father was in a union. The union did some good things; it did some bad things."

The newsletter also urges UAW members to "not share any tools, knowledge or support for any" of the employees that decide to leave the union.

Hagler, a member of the UAW-Chrysler National Bargaining team, said it's a "two-way street" and "some of these people, not all, who are choosing to opt out aren't union-friendly" or cooperative.

Publishing the list doesn't appear to have deterred workers from opting out of the union. In the spring 2014 newsletter, Hagler listed 14 workers who had opted out of the union. In the most recent list, there were 43 names.

"It shows these bullying tactics aren't working," Vernuccio said. "No one likes a bully. They may be helping persuade people to leave the union because of these tactics."

Hagler said the local union plans to continue publishing the names in future newsletters. "We're updating it as we go," he said. "Just so there's a current list."

Right to work

Hagler argues it's unfair to full dues-paying members that workers who opt out of the UAW under Michigan's so-called "right-to-work" legislation still receive benefits bargained for by the union.

"It's just not right," he said. "It's extremely expensive to represent certain employees. The membership of the union picks up those extra costs."

Even if autoworkers don't join a union, they are still included in the bargaining under the legislation because the UAW has exclusive bargaining rights with the Detroit automakers.

The UAW Local 412 newsletter article does not mention "right to work," but previous newsletters with the lists have. It's unclear how many members on the list left through the legislation or opted out of paying non-bargaining union dues.

Either way, Hagler said, he is "still required to represent them."

Prior to Michigan becoming a "right-to-work" state, UAW members were allowed to opt out of the union but still had to pay agency fees to cover the cost of collective bargaining. Now, they can opt out and they continue to receive many of the benefits negotiated by the union.

Vernuccio said the Mackinac Center for Public Policy would like Michigan to adjust the legislation to include what it calls "worker's choice." It would free unions from representing those who do not want to pay them and would allow workers to represent themselves. The organization argues it would not change collective bargaining in any other way.

"It would let workers represent themselves," Vernuccio said. "It's very simple legislation."

Michigan passed right-to-work legislation in 2012 that went into effect in March 2013. The legislation forbids requiring workers to belong to and pay dues to a union; it leaves it up to workers to decide. The UAW contracts negotiated for autoworkers at the Detroit automakers earlier this year were the first since Michigan became a right-to-work state.

Although membership nationwide in the UAW grew 3.1 percent last year, the percentage of all Michigan workers in unions fell to 14.5 percent last year from 16.3 percent a year earlier. There are 25 right-to-work states. Among recent converts, Indiana enacted a right-to-work law in 2012; Wisconsin adopted a right-to-work law earlier this year.


Canadians' Internet traffic at risk

Canadian researchers find that a large amount of Canadians' internet traffic is routed through the United States, making it vulnerable to interception.

Toronto Star
Alex Boutilier
Dec 31 2015

OTTAWA–Done any online shopping this holiday season? Paid any bills online? Maybe sent an email to your local MP about road salt?

If you answered yes to any of the above, there's a good chance your data made its way through the United States. And that puts your personal information at risk of interception, new research by two Canadian academics shows.

Researchers Andrew Clement and Jonathan A. Obar call it the "boomerang effect." Because most of the Internet's infrastructure runs through the United States, even communications beginning and ending in Canada are often routed through America.

"When (data) passes through the United States . . . Canadians have no legal rights at all. We lose our constitutional rights, and under U.S. law Canadians are foreigners, so there's no protection for our communications," Clement said in an interview.

But before getting into the issues associated with the boomerang effect, we need to know a little bit more about that marvelous series of tubes called the Internet.

How the Internet actually works

Former U.S. senator Ted Stevens probably didn't know it, but his description of the Internet as a "series of tubes" wasn't all that far off. At least it's a more accurate description than the current conception of the Internet as an amorphous "cloud" of data.

In the recently released book Law, Privacy and Surveillance in Canada in the Post-Snowden Era, Clement and Obar explain that all interactions on the Internet are data packets being transmitted between routers. (The book was edited by Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa professor who writes a weekly column for the Star.)

"They're literally tubes of light, fiber optics," Clement said. "And then in addition to the tubes, there's the switching centres where packets get switched from one tube to another. And those are critically important."

The Internet doesn't work like an old landline, where a connection is established between two ends of the conversation. Instead, data can jump through multiple routers between its origin and destination.

For instance, an email sent from the University of Toronto to Queen's Park doesn't simply go across the street. In Clement and Obar's experiment, that email began in Toronto, made its way to New York, then on to Chicago, finally arriving back in Toronto.

In fact, they found that 22 per cent of Canadian Internet traffic they monitored in their experiment was routed through at least one major city in the United States — even as far away as Miami, Fla.

Email traffic to Queen's Park?

Yeah. So the policy implications should be pretty clear already.

These days, most government business is conducted online. Emails containing sensitive information is routinely bounced back and forth between politicians, their staffers, and bureaucrats over email.

The National Security Agency (NSA), the U.S.'s massive electronic spying agency, has reportedly installed "splitter" sites in major cities that would give them the ability to intercept data as it is transmitted through major cities. Clement and Obar write that Canadian data running through the U.S. has no protection, constitutionally or otherwise, regarding its interception and use by American intelligence services.

And before you chalk this up to the tinfoil hat crowd, the U.S. and Canada have conducted economic espionage on each other in the past. Canada's signals intelligence agency, the Communications Security Establishment, reportedly spied on the U.S. to help secure a lucrative wheat deal with China in the 1980s — to name but one example we know about.

Sovereignty, network and otherwise

Clement and Obar argue the federal government should begin moving to a concept of "network sovereignty" — in other words, Canada should make sure that Canadian Internet traffic is routed domestically, rather than through the U.S.

While a new term, Clement and Obar argue, network sovereignty is quite an old concept.

Clement said that with relatively little investment, Canada could ensure that its citizens' Internet communications could remain in Canada — and be subject to Canada's privacy and data laws.

"These (investments) include, most notably, public Internet exchange points, where all carriers can freely hand traffic off to each other, as well as the high-capacity fibre optic trunk lines that connect them," they write. "The former are vital, as they enable the various local networks to reach communicants on other networks without having to depend on buying transit services from foreign carriers."

If that sounds pricey, well, it probably is. But Clement and Obar note that the federal government has spent hundreds of millions — rightly, they say — on expanding Internet services to rural communities. The federal government has spent nowhere near that in building Canada's Internet "backbone" capacity.

What's the hold-up?

A few things. First, the issue of U.S. mass Internet surveillance wasn't widely known until whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed some of the NSA's largest programs. So the scope of the problem with routing Canadians' communications through the U.S. wasn't clear.

Second, Clement notes that the issue of "network sovereignty" has not really been widely discussed. If policy makers don't know about the issue, it's not likely it will see significant public investment or work its way onto the government's priority list.

"Partly, it's ignorance," Clement said.

Finally, large telecommunications companies obviously have an incentive to control as much infrastructure as possible, forcing smaller companies to purchase transmission capacity from them.

"These big telecom companies don't have an interest to make it easy for their smaller competitors to trade within Canada," Clement said.

Avoiding the boomerang

Clement and Obar argue that investing in network sovereignty would increase Canada's information security, but that's not enough — Canada has its own electronic spying agency, after all.

But network sovereignty, Clement and Obar conclude, as well as promoting a free and open Internet, would go a long way to ensuring Canadians rights are respected.

And if Canada takes a leadership role on the issue, the effects could be felt beyond the country's borders in this ever-increasingly connected world.

"Asserting national network sovereignty transparently and accountably in the pursuit of democratic ideals arguably provides one of the best bases for achieving similar ideals at a global scale," they write.


Five things that could change the Canadian auto industry in 2016

Toronto Star
Dana Flavelle
Dec 30 2015

The Liberal government in Ottawa is facing a host of demands based on promises it made during the election campaign. The auto industry will have to make a strong case to get heard above the clamour.

In a utopian world, Canadian auto workers would get huge raises, governments would lavish money on the industry, and cars would drive themselves as they met fuel efficiency and emissions standards effortlessly.

Then there's reality.

Contract talks in 2016 between the Detroit Three automakers and their 28,000 workers in Canada are expected to be tough, and pivotal to keeping assembly plants open here.

The Liberal government in Ottawa is facing a host of demands based on promises it made during the election campaign. The auto industry will have to make a strong case to get heard above the clamour.

And, as for cars that drive themselves, well, they could be in the showroom by 2020, at least in Japan, but it will likely be years before they replace all 26 million cars currently on the road in Canada.

Still, it promises to be an eventful year ahead — with at least one unexpected surprise if history is any guide.

Here are look at five things that could change the face of the Canadian auto industry, starting in 2016.

Union negotiations: Contract talks between 28,000 members of Unifor and the Detroit Three automakers in Ontario are set to shape how many of the remaining 10 assembly plants here continue to operate. U.S. talks this year closed the gap between Canadian and U.S. workers, raising wages south of the border while the Canadian dollar lowered labour costs in Canada.

But with all three major automakers looking at plants that need major new investments, Unifor National President Jerry Dias has signalled the focus will be on winning new product commitments for Canada.

General Motors has said it won't announce a replacement for the Camaro at its Oshawa plant until it signs a new labour agreement. Fiat Chrysler's assembly plant in Brampton is badly in need of new investment. And two Ford plants in Windsor that build V-8 engines for larger commercial vehicles, pickup trucks and muscle cars need new product mandates after 2017.

Assembly plants are seen as crucial to maintaining an auto industry in Canada; they acts as hubs, attracting parts makers and other suppliers. But Canada has been losing out in the global competition for new investment to other lower-cost jurisdictions, particularly Mexico and the southern U.S.

Trade agreements: The Trans-Pacific Partnership, signed but not yet ratified by its 12 member nations, is the just the latest in a series of deals that could transform Canada's auto industry, as multinational automakers develop increasingly global supply chains.

Canada can't afford to be left out of such deals, advocates say, noting the auto industry is already highly integrated with two other major signatories, the U.S. and Mexico.

The pact would remove a 6.1 per cent tariff on vehicles imported into Canada much faster than they will fall in the U.S., making imports from Japan more competitive, critics note.

The domestic content required on vehicles that can come in duty free would fall to 45 per cent from 62.5 per cent, potentially biting into the local auto parts market.

Unifor has warned that the TPP could lead to a loss of 20,000 auto-related jobs in Canada.

Advocates say the deal could spell lower prices for consumers if industry savings are passed along.

The proposed deal has already sparked some intense lobbying for changes to the final wording.

Technology: Self-driving cars, ride sharing apps, and tighter fuel efficiency and emissions standards are all driving a higher level of technological investment by the auto industry, as is a growing challenge from tech giants Google Inc. and Apple.

In the past, regulation and consumer demand were moving in opposition directions, says Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association. Consumers want faster, plusher, bigger cars, while regulators were driven by climate change and safety concerns. But the two desires appear to be converging, and technology is the enabler, he says.

Intelligent cars that sense the world around them are more fuel efficient and safer. Ontario could be a winner in this scenario if the right conditions foster investment in auto innovation, Volpe says.

The province is already home to one of the biggest tech players in the auto industry, Blackberry's QNX, while more than 100 other local firms are playing in the sector.

The province has announced it will allow testing of self-driving cars on public roads starting in 2016.

Expect to see industry press for more government investment in things like electric recharging stations and intelligent infrastructure that promotes Ontario as place to conduct research and development.

A National Auto Strategy: With a Liberal government in Ottawa, there will be renewed industry pressure for a long-overdue National Auto Strategy.

Labour organizations and automakers agree that the country needs a new approach, including better co-ordination between the federal and provincial governments — a "one-stop" shop to attract and maintain industry investment.

While the province of Ontario provides grants as incentives, the previous Conservative government in Ottawa offered the industry repayable loans, which were taxable.

Last year, the State of Tennessee gave a single auto marker, Volkswagen, $600 million. By comparison, in the dying days of the fall election campaign then Conservative Leader Stephen Harper promised to extend an existing auto industry fund by $1 billion over 10 years, starting in 2017/18, with some of the money coming out as grants.

The Liberals have made supportive comments about the auto sector, but offered no specific commitments.

Much will be riding on the recommendations of Canada's new auto industry czar Ray Tanguay. The retired chairman and chief executive officer of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada was appointed in June to advise both government and business on how Canada can resume winning its fair share of industry investment.

Tanguay's report could be out by the end of 2015 or early in 2016.

The unexpected: If 2015 is any indication, the industry is likely headed for more than one surprise.

Will it be a sudden deceleration in sales? Or perhaps a mega-merger between car makers?

"Something unexpected will crop up. It always does," says Tony Faria, co-director, office of automotive and vehicle research, at the University of Windsor. "What I hope doesn't come up in 2016 is a sudden downturn in auto industry sales."

The highly cyclical industry has so far defied its normal pattern of six to seven years of strong sales followed by a two- to three-year trough, he noted.

Profits have been plump as consumers switch to larger, more profitable, vehicles and automakers reap the benefits of deep cost-cutting after the 2009 recession.

But the industry also faced an unprecedented number of safety recalls in 2015 and a growing challenge from tech giants. Capping the year was the breathtaking admission by Volkswagen AG that it had installed software that deliberately tricked emissions tests.

The accelerating demand for costly investments in new technology is one reason Fiat Chrysler chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne's is calling for a mega-merger with General Motors. GM has demurred.

"As big as Fiat Chrysler is — it builds and sells 4 million vehicles a year, globally — Sergio says it's not big enough to meet all the emissions standards, safety standards and be competitive with all the new technology that's coming," Faria says.

Stay tuned. Anything could happen.

Canada's auto industry by the numbers

Direct Employment: 120,000.
Total Employment (counting "spin-off" jobs): over 400,000.
Total Shipments: $56 billion (assembly)/ $27 billion (parts).
Total GDP: $17 billion value-added.
Exports: $66 billion (second-most important export industry).
Productivity: $210,000 per worker per year (assembly).
Average Annual Incomes: $72,000 (assembly), $55,000 (parts).
Sources: Unifor, Statistics Canada, Industry Canada


4 ways oil will shape
your finances in 2016

The Canadian economy is tied closely to the price of oil,
meaning crude will have a broad impact over the coming year.

Toronto Star
Adam Mayers
Dec 29 2015

As they say, the cure for high prices is high prices.

That's the truth at the heart of the collapse in oil prices in 2015, a force that will shape our personal finances in the coming year. In the GTA, it's good news. The commute is cheaper and so is the cost of heating our homes. It adds up to a tax cut as good as the one the Liberals are giving us.

In the west, where 40,000 industry-related jobs have disappeared, more pain is on the way because the energy rout may only be midstream. Even if it isn't, more jobs will likely go. Until the price of oil stabilizes, the only thing companies can do is guess and keep cutting to ensure their costs remain below their falling revenues.

It's hard to recall that 18 months ago, oil was at $110 (U.S.) a barrel. It traded Monday at a little under $37, two-thirds lower. If you think about that in terms of your household, how would you fare if your family income was cut by 67 per cent?

This is all about a fight for control of the world's oil market, dominated by the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), of which Saudi Arabia is the lead. As China's insatiable demand for energy drove up prices, a search for cheaper supplies made sense. New technologies made it easy to drill into shale formations and fracture the rock to release oil, creating a plentiful supply of energy in North America.

A sign of the times is that this month the U.S. lifted a 40-year ban on the export of domestically produced oil. That is because fracking is making the U.S. virtually energy self-sufficient, just as China's economy is slowing — and so is its need for oil. In the meantime, Iran is adding two million barrels to world markets as part of its nuclear deal.

The Saudis seeing a long-term threat to their oil power have ensured that OPEC continues to produce at the same pace to maintain market share. The Saudi goal is to drive the higher-cost fracking industry under. Our even more expensive oilsands are caught in the crossfire.

OPEC shows no signs of standing down. It reaffirmed its strategy at a December meeting, and last week its World Oil Outlook forecast that a barrel of oil would only cost (in real terms) around $70 by 2020.

So here's what it means for us:

The dollar
In June 2014, with $110 oil, the loonie sat at 92 cents (U.S.). It cost us $1.09 for $1 American dollar. On Monday, it was at 72 cents, a drop of 22 per cent. It was $1.40 to $1 at the consumer level.

If oil rebounds, so will the dollar; if not, it may fall further which is something readers care a lot about. How to get a better U. S. exchange rate deal was the most popular column of the year.

Canadian stocks
Toronto share prices are down 9.8 per cent year to date. Energy stocks make up about 10 per cent of the TSX and have fared much worse. The TSX Energy Index is down 26 per cent.

If oil prices improve, these shares will too. Ditto for our banks, which are big lenders to the oilpatch and are another big part of the main TSX composite index. They've had a lousy year too, down 5 per cent.

We climbed out of our 61-cent-dollar hole in 2000, gradually getting to par in 2009 without much inflation. Our exports to the U.S. were cheaper and so more attractive, creating profits and jobs. By substituting Mexican avocados for California ones, we energized our economy without higher prices. Cross your fingers we can do that again.

Interest rates
If we can't and inflation starts picking up, rates may rise even though the Bank of Canada doesn't want them to. If so, housing will cool, consumer spending will fall and we'll all have a harder time.

There are a lot of ifs, ands and maybes here and, as always, beware of forecasts. In June, when I wrote about the dollar, the consensus was that it would be between 77 and 80 cents now. Between now and this time next year, anything can happen.


The good, the bad and the
Trump: A toast to 2015

Marsha Lederman
The Globe and Mail
December 27, 2016

The thing about Mr. Trump, though, is that you can't even laugh any more. With every moronic gaffe, I keep thinking this is the turning point – that menstruation crack, mocking the reporter with the disability, the Hillary Clinton bathroom thing, and above all, the bar-all-Muslims absurdity. In each instance I have thought this is it; the moment Americans finally wake up and realize that the emperor may have clothes but they are ludicrous and come with a terrible price tag and a made-in-Mexico label. But, no. Mr. Trump, rather than getting schlonged in the polls, still leads his fellow Republicans.

So by this point one has to wonder if his popularity is not in fact in spite of his racism, but because of it. Everyone knows where he stands by now, right? So many Americans are silently agreeing with him?

I shudder to think.

These are dark days – and not just in an end-of-December kind of way. The year has had an almost apocalyptic feel at times: Beyond that clown making a mockery of the U.S. political system, we have been presented with the stunning effects of climate change, the brutality of the Islamic State, mass shootings in the U.S. every which way (and day, nearly), the Paris bombings, which underscored the randomness of terrorism, and the San Bernardino attack, which brought it all closer to home.

And yet there is light, even in the darkest places. One September morning I logged onto Twitter to find a debate raging over a photograph: should it be posted? Should it come with a warning?

When I found that photo, I, like many others, was stunned to the point of tears. And I wondered: Will this change anything?

It did. That image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, dead on a beach, woke the world to a crisis that was not new. Oblivious and/or apathetic for years, people in the West were suddenly teaming up to raise money, find living spaces and sponsor Syrian refugees.

While I despair for refugees from elsewhere who have been languishing for years, this en masse welcome for the Syrians has been a balm for a cynical soul.

People, galvanized, can make a difference.

Leading the outstretched-arms brigade has been the new federal government. I'm so glass-half-empty that I walk around parched most of the time, but it was impossible not to feel at least half-filled with hope watching our new Prime Minister and gender-equal cabinet being sworn in. I was reminded of the optimism I felt exactly seven years prior, the night Barack Obama won the U.S. Presidential election. Even in the midst of a severe economic crisis, he instilled hope (and it wasn't just the poster).

I think what gave me the greatest hope this year is our continued work to repair – or at least heal – the historic wrong upon which this country was partly built.

The Truth and Reconciliation report used the term "cultural genocide" in describing the residential school system. Children were abused – physically, sexually – and died. The authorities tried to kill their culture, too.

We may say, "I was not part of that" – particularly if we're young or immigrants. But we all bear responsibility in fixing it.

I received a book this week documenting how a white guy in Victoria spearheaded a collaborative theatre work about reconciliation. "All Canadians," writes Will Weigler in From the Heart, "whether new immigrants or those whose parents and grandparents were born here, are in a relationship with our country's history – a history of coming to a land that was already populated."

Yes, we are. And this is hardly ancient history. It's not just that the last residential schools didn't close until the latter half of the 1990s. It's that the tragic impact remains, tumbling down through the generations.

At this month's B.C. Achievement Foundation's awards for First Nations' artists, the role cultural oppression continues to play in their art (and lives) was addressed by several artists.

"You know, they wanted to take it all away from us," said Tahltan-Tlingit artist Linda Bob, choking up in a videotaped interview, explaining that she felt emotional. "And here we are."

Here we are – it's 2015 – and this year, with the TRC report and the promise, finally, of an inquiry into Canada's missing and murdered indigenous women, it feels like we've come a long way down this crucial, fraught road.

That said, we still managed to send a contestant to a Miss Universe pageant in a bikini with a colourful, culturally appropriated totem pole hanging between her legs.

Former Miss Universe owner Mr. Trump talks about making America great again, but he has no idea what made it great in the first place. He doesn't understand what builds a country: its people – indigenous and immigrants.

Canada has been made great by the people who were here first and the people who came, and are still coming, to these shores. What will make Canada even greater is finally reconciling with indigenous people and living equitably side by side.

So as the year comes to a close, I would like to lift that half-empty glass and toast to necessary change, enlightenment and reconciliation – and also to intolerance when necessary: for small-minded, twisted views, like those of Mr. Trump.


Lincoln unveils "quiet luxury"
in the 2017 Lincoln MKZ

2017 Lincoln MKZ

Toronto Star
December 26, 2015

LOS ANGELES, CA: After languishing in obscurity in the luxury automotive market for several years, Ford's Lincoln brand has been on a roll of late.

Sales are up 16.6 per cent in Canada this year with increases of 14 per cent for the Lincoln MKZ and 64 per cent for the MKX leading the way in the month of October.

Perhaps more importantly, Lincoln has been able to attract a younger demographic with the average of age of buyers now 58, down from 67 a few years ago.

So with those figures in mind and sales momentum building in North America and globally, particularly in China, Lincoln couldn't find a more opportune time to introduce their redesigned MKZ midsize sedan than right now when the market is red hot.

They chose California and the eve of the Los Angeles auto show press day to debut the new 2017 model. It's a fitting place for the unveiling as California is a big market for them. Lincoln's sales have doubled there over the past five years.

In China, the brand was only introduced last year and already the firm has 24 stores there with a new one slated to open about every 10 days in the next year.

As the volume leader for Lincoln, the fortunes of the MKZ are particularly important. So Lincoln has been listening to its customers and incorporated a number of their needs and wants into the 2017 model.

2017 Lincoln MKZ

"Our customers are looking for three attributes in a luxury midsize sedan— technologies that ease their everyday experience, a beautiful design that is crafted with attention to detail and a vehicle with impressive power that makes it a pleasure to drive," said Kumar Galhotra, president of Lincoln.

Lincoln designers have redone the MKZ from the inside out. For example, engineers have gone back to switches and dials on the ventilation and audio functions in place of slider adjustments. As well, interior craftsmanship has been a priority along with special attention to detail to bring out the "quiet luxury" Lincoln is emphasizing in the brand.

Outside, the MKZ features the new look Lincoln front grille.

Outside, the MKZ features the new look Lincoln front grille.

A potent 3.0-litre V6 twin turbo will power the new Lincoln MKZ. Driving enthusiasts will love this engine, which produces 400 hp and 400 lb/ft of torque. A gas-electric hybrid model will also be available.

In Canada, all models will have all-wheel drive except the hybrid, which will be front-drive only.

Among the new technology available will be an auto hold feature that keeps the car at a stop with the push of a button, allowing the driver to take his/her feet off the brake pedal in stop-and-go driving.

Also offered will be an enhanced park assist system using ultrasonic sensors to help guide the car into a parallel or perpendicular parking spot. Another enhanced feature is collision assist with pedestrian detection that can help avoid some frontal collisions or at least lessen the severity of the impact.

Drivers who enjoy taking the car to the limits will benefit from dynamic torque vectoring, part of a Driver's Package available with the 3.0-litre engine. This system enhances cornering agility without compromising ride comfort.

The new Lincoln MKZ goes on sales next summer.

Outside, the MKZ features the new look Lincoln Rear.


Fiat Chrysler recalling nearly
570,000 Jeep, Dodge SUVs

Michael Wayland,
The Detroit News
December 25, 2015

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV on Thursday announced two recalls that include nearly 570,000 sport utility vehicles worldwide.

The largest recall involves more than 476,600 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango SUVs from the 2011-12 model years. An estimated 352,831 of the vehicles are being recalled in the United States. Wiring in the vanity mirror of the impacted vehicles can short-circuit and start a fire.

The company said it is unaware of any related injuries or accidents. Overheating was observed only in vehicles equipped with a certain wiring package. The conditions were reported among a small percentage (less than 0.02 percent) of vehicles, the company said.

Overheating has not occurred in vehicles that have not had service involving headliner removal in connection with a previous recall of 895,000 SUVs from July 2014.

Wiring in the headliners of these vehicles will be secured with a new adhesive. Measures will also be taken to help prevent the wiring from contacting potentially abrasive surfaces.

An estimated 26,487 vehicles will be recalled in Canada, as well as 13,037 in Mexico and 84,330 outside North America.

Separately, Fiat Chrysler announced a recall on Thursday of roughly 93,200 2015 Jeep Compasses and Patriots, including 60,107 in the U.S.

An FCA US investigation discovered clamps in some vehicles produced during a five-month period this year may be out of position. This may allow rapid loss of power steering fluid. Leakage onto a hot surface may pose a fire hazard.

If the condition occurs, steering is not lost. However, greater effort may be required to steer the vehicle. Customers who experience this or see evidence of a fluid leak are urged to contact their dealers. Reported incidents of fluid leaks predominantly involve vehicles with very low mileage.

An estimated 5,755 vehicles will be recalled in Canada, 3,351 in Mexico and 23,995 outside North America. The company said it is unaware of any related injuries or accidents.


Ford files a record number
of patents in 2015

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
December 24, 2015

Workers at Ford Motor Co. applied for a record number of patents for the automaker this year as it continues to expand its mobility and autonomous car research.

Ford employees submitted nearly 6,000 patents in 2015, the automaker said Tuesday. That's an increase of 36 percent from 2014.

Most of the new patents are related to Ford's Smart Mobility plan for how it will develop driverless cars, car-sharing platforms and other mobility options.

"Our engineers and scientists are inventing ways to address mobility challenges more than ever — with more patent applications filed this year on car-sharing, wearables, bikes, cloud computing and in other areas to improve consumers' lives inside and outside the car," Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president and chief technical officer, said. "By hosting — and participating in — more internal hackathons and innovation labs, our employees are stepping up to show that inventing is a priority for leadership in the industry."

Among the patents is a filing for a new bike system that can detect bike lanes and alert cyclists of path deviations. Another would suggest a safe vehicle speed based on infrastructure, average vehicle speed and GPS data. A new front brake light technology would improve vehicle-to-vehicle and autonomous driving-to-pedestrian communication.

Earlier this year, Ford licensed its robotic testing, which it's used since 2012 on tough durability tests, to other automakers.

"The commitment Ford has made to innovation is commendable," said James Malackowski, chairman and CEO of Ocean Tomo, an intellectual property firm. "The strength of Ford's patent portfolio has resulted in the company being named a constituent to the Ocean Tomo 300 Patent Index for five years." Ocean Tomo annually releases its 300 Patent Index, which is based on the value of a company's intellectual property.

Ford has filed an especially high number of electrified vehicle patents. Ford has increased filing of electrification patents nearly 200 percent in the past five years, including 400 filed in 2014.

In May, Ford said it was opening its electric vehicle patents to other automakers for a price, to help accelerate the development of those types of cars. At the time, Ford said it had more than 650 electrified vehicle patents and about 1,000 pending patent applications on electrified vehicle technologies.


Ford issues four recalls
for about 317K vehicles

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
December 23, 2015

Ford Motor Co. on Tuesday issues three safety recalls and one safety compliance recall for roughly 317,000 vehicles.

■The biggest recall covers 313,000 2003-05 model year Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis vehicles over an issue with a lighting control module. Ford said the solder joints on the module could crack and interrupt power to the headlamps, which increases the risk of a crash at night.

Ford said it's aware of 11 reports of accidents and one report of a minor injury related to the issue.

The vehicles were built at St. Thomas Assembly Plant between Oct. 3, 2001, through Aug. 2, 2005. About 312,814 vehicles might be affected in North America, including 296,004 in the United States and federalized territories, 14,714 in Canada and 2,096 in Mexico.

■Ford is also recalling 177 2016 model year F-650 and F-750 trucks to replace rear air brake chambers.

The automaker said the air brake jounce hoses could contact the vehicle's rear axle housing during vehicle operation, which could cause a leak and inadvertent application of the parking brake or diminished braking performance, which increases the risk of a crash.

Ford isn't aware of any accidents or injuries related to the issue. The affected vehicles were built at Ohio Assembly Plant from June 18, 2015, through Nov. 15, 2015. About 167 of the vehicles are in the U.S., and 10 are in Canada.

■ Ford is also recalling 1,300 2015 Ford Transit dual-rear-wheel vehicles to replace rear axle shafts.

The automaker said the rear axle shafts could fracture, either causing a loss of motive power without warning while driving, or unintended vehicle movement when the vehicle is in park without the parking brake engaged, which increases the risk of injury or crash.

Ford isn't aware of any accidents or injuries related to the problem.

The vehicles were built at Kansas City Assembly Plant from May 1, 2015, to June 26, 2015.

About 1,265 vehicles are in North America, including 1,170 in the United States and federalized territories, and 95 in Canada.

■ Ford is also recalling 3,200 2015 Ford F-150 SuperCrew vehicles to replace the front safety belt retractor and pretensioner assembly.

The automaker said the safety belt assembly's pretensioner cables could have been improperly secured, and might not adequately restrain an occupant in a crash.

No accidents or injuries related to the issue have been reported.

The vehicles were built at Dearborn Assembly from Jan. 22, 2015, through March 17, 2015. There are a total of 3,218 vehicles that might be affected in North America, including 2,590 in the United States and federalized territories, 555 in Canada and 73 in Mexico.

In all recall cases, dealers will replace the affected parts for free.


Auto companies cheat retirees
while posting record sales

By Eric London
22 December 2015

In the most recent contracts, the Big Three auto companies and their allies in the United Auto Workers gave nearly 600,000 retired autoworkers little more than a slap in the face. Though workers have given decades of their lives to the companies, the companies responded with an insulting $250 per year at Ford, a $500 lump sum at GM and a $1,000 voucher to purchase a company car at Fiat Chrysler (FCA). The UAW, which still takes retirees' dues money each month, did not even let retirees vote on the deal.

The World Socialist Web Site Autoworker Newsletter spoke to one retiree at GM's Fort Wayne Assembly Plant in Indiana who has been cheated out of her $8,000 signing bonus because the UAW and company say she retired just weeks before the date laid out in the contract. In other words, workers are discovering many hidden tricks in the contract that benefit the company.

"I should get my $8,000 that was promised to me when I voted on the contract, but they say I can't get it now," the newly retired autoworker said. "I feel like they did me wrong on this money."

After ramming through the contracts by a combination of threats, lies and fraud, the UAW has treated their corporate partners to four more years of low labor costs and high profits.

Wall Street, the auto companies and the UAW have all hailed the contract, and the auto industry is now licking its chops at potentially record profits in the coming period. J.D. Power announced last week that December is expected to see record auto sales in the US.

J.D. Power Senior Vice President John Humphrey announced: "With continued record transaction prices, consumers are on pace to spend more than $44 billion on new vehicles in December and $437 billion on new vehicles in 2015, both record levels."

Current autoworkers and retirees will see very little of this revenue. Most of the profits will end up in the pockets of Wall Street investors and the corporate executives who made tens of millions last year (GM's Mary Barra: $16.2 million, Ford's Mark Fields: $18.6 million, FCA's Sergio Marchionne: $72 million), while the UAW will doubtless get their cut through its corporate stock ownership and numerous "joint program" schemes.

The immense profits of the corporations flow from the exploited labor of hundreds of thousands of autoworkers, including the recently retired Fort Wayne worker who said that she is being fleeced by the company and the UAW out of more than her $8,000 signing bonus.

"We make 1,500 trucks a day at Fort Wayne Assembly," she said, noting, "That's 500 per shift, per day. I'm glad to be out of the plant, because it's like when you walk in you're under their control, the company tells you what you can and can't do. A lot of people associate GM with prison. They use every opportunity to control you, and you have no control. They make you feel like a child."

The Fort Wayne Assembly Plant is one of GM's most productive plants. It is a massive facility—3.03 million square feet located on 716 acres alongside Interstate 69. About 4,000 workers staff 34.9 miles of assembly lines that wrap through the factory.

The plant produces the best-selling Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra. These pickup trucks are not cheap: A double cab 2016 Silverado runs at at least $35,500, and the GMC Sierra starts at $27,500. With the expansion of the two-tier wage and benefit system and the new pay ceiling lowered to $29 an hour, the company expects to make major profits off of these vehicles.

The Fort Wayne retiree explained how retirees are treated under the new contract. "Even though I need to go to the doctor, I have to wait until January to make an appointment because the contract says if I go this year I have to pay the whole yearly deductible. Our benefits have changed a lot, and the coverage is worse. I have to pay out-of-pocket for specialist visits. We've done all we could to help make the company so why penalize us when we retire? Now that I'm on a fixed income I have to pay out more? That doesn't make sense.

"To the company, the truck is the most important thing. They make you come to work early on every holiday so you've got barely any time with kids. And it's straight time for coming in early.

"And the UAW raised dues rates, but they don't do anything for workers. Our union dues went from two hours to two-and-a-half hours a month, but representation was the same and when it came to the contract they didn't fight for what we wanted. They give more money to their bank accounts for themselves.

"The UAW was very distanced from us. They don't tell us anything about what is going on. The International and Local UAW leaders are trying to make their pockets fat—that was all that really mattered. When they did layoffs in 2007, the sons or daughters of UAW officials were protected."

A campaign team from the World Socialist Web Site recently distributed the Autoworker Newsletter at the plant and was greeted with interest by workers.

"What you're doing with the Autoworker Newsletter, you're our voice because we don't have a voice," the retiree said. "You are an outlet for us workers and I appreciate that. Keep up the good work."

Another worker at the plant said, "I think the contract sucks. On top of everything else, they are going after our vacation time. It's obvious what they think about us when they think one or two weeks of vacation per year is too much time off. The company would prefer to work us to death, and the union agrees."


Ford plans a hybrid F-150
and maybe a diesel, too

Auto Blog
Greg Migliore
Dec 21, 2015

Ford has secrets. Like all big companies, it closely guards its future product plans, but this week CEO Mark Fields was feeling chatty. Want to know what's up with the F-150? Just ask him.

"Yes, we're working on electrified F-Series, and it's really around a conventional hybrid," he said on NPR's All Things Considered.

That's a big deal, to put it mildly. The F-150 is Ford's single most important vehicle. It's the Blue Oval's top seller and a profit machine. F-150 powertrain details are the equivalent of Ford's nuclear codes.

Fields' revelations are not surprising when viewed through a broader lens. The company is spending $4.5 billion on electric vehicle development in the next five years, which will allow it to add 13 new EVs during that time. By 2020, 40 percent of Ford's nameplates will be electrified. It makes sense that the company's flagship products would be a part of this strategy, which includes plug-in hybrids, traditional hybrids (non-plug-ins), and all-electric vehicles.

"Ford is moving forward with the development of a rear-wheel-drive hybrid system," spokesman Mike Levine said in an emailed statement to Autoblog. "Ford is on track to have the hybrid system ready later this decade on rear-wheel-drive Ford pickups and SUVs."

It was an interesting week for the F-150, as spy shooters also captured a suspicious test mule roaming the streets near the company's Dearborn, MI, headquarters. The prototype appeared to be a running diesel engine, and speculation is that Ford could opt for a version of Jaguar Land Rover's 3.0-liter V6 oil-burner used in the Range Rover. Ford would love to get the F-150 over the magic 30-miles-per-gallon marker and past Ram's light-duty 3.0-liter diesel V6 rated at 29 mpg on the highway.

Levine wouldn't speculate on a diesel truck, pointing to the company's double-down on EcoBoost powertrains. "While diesel is a solution, it is not the solution," he said. "EcoBoost offers the ideal combination of performance and fuel economy that over 60 percent of F-150 customers are choosing."

So maybe a diesel, and definitely a hybrid for the F-150. Those are big 'secrets.' But Ford has staked its truck leadership claims on more than just chart-topping sales figures that date to the Carter era. The F-150 has been an innovation leader in the segment, rolling out aluminum bodies powered by turbocharged engines, even when others scoffed. Secrets? Ford wants you to know the F-150 will get a hybrid model. If you ask us, Mark Fields was making a point.


Dec. will best U.S. auto
sales month since '05

Associated Press
December 18, 2015

Two auto sales forecasting companies say Americans will buy more cars and trucks in December than any other month in more than a decade.

LMC Automotive and J.D. Power are predicting that U.S. sales will hit 1.71 million this month, the highest number since sales reached 1.8 million in July of 2005.

The companies say this week's quarter-point interest rate increase will have only a minimal impact on auto sales. The strong December virtually assures that U.S. sales will set an annual record of 17.5 million this year.

December traditionally is a strong car and truck sales month with consumers taking advantage of year-end and holiday deals.

The companies expect people to spend over $44 billion on new vehicles in December and $437 billion in 2015. Both figures are records.


Ford to test self-driving
cars in Calif.

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
Sec 17, 2015

Ford Motor Co. will begin test-driving fully autonomous Fusion hybrids on California roads in 2016, the Dearborn automaker announced.

Ford has been testing driverless cars in some capacity for 10 years, and earlier this year became the first automaker to test a fully autonomous Fusion at Mcity, an Ann Arbor automotive proving ground intended to help Michigan lead in driverless-car technology.

Google has been testing its own autonomous vehicle in California since 2009.

In January, Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation allowing for testing of self-driving cars in Michigan, joining Florida, Nevada and California with similar laws. Testing is also taking place in Pennsylvania without any special legislation. Ford did not say if or when it plans to test-drive the car on roads in the Great Lakes State.

The new California tests come as Ford ramps up its "Smart Mobility" plan, which included the opening earlier this year of a research and innovation center in Palo Alto, California. The center includes 100 researchers, engineers and scientists.

"Our Palo Alto team has grown significantly this year, using research and innovation to explore and develop future mobility solutions," Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO, said in a statement. "We're attracting top talent from around the world to join our team in Silicon Valley, including employees from local technology companies and universities who want to make people's lives better by changing the way the world moves."

Roughly 80 percent of the Palo Alto team joined Ford from the technology sector, the automaker said. The remaining 20 percent are Ford employees from the United States, China, Germany and Australia who bring automotive engineering and design expertise.

The Palo Alto site works with partners including the University of California-Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, Santa Clara and San Jose State.

"Having a strong presence in Silicon Valley allows us to further accelerate our research on a wide range of technologies, and apply our insights to create real-world mobility solutions," Ken Washington, Ford vice president, research and advanced engineering, said in a statement.

Ford first revealed its autonomous Fusion in 2013. The company is currently in the "advanced engineering" phase of its autonomous car production, meaning it's working to make sensing and computing technologies feasible for production while continuing to test and refine algorithms.

Fields has said he expects some automaker to come up with a fully autonomous vehicle within five years.

In addition to autonomous vehicle testing, Ford is experimenting in a number of mobility areas, including ride-sharing, car-hailing apps and the creation of e-bicycles. Earlier this month it announced a new Uber-like app and shuttle service to help employees get around its Dearborn offices and buildings.

The shuttle is one of Ford's 25 mobility experiments, announced by Fields last January. The experiments cover everything from car-sharing to parking spot-finding apps.

Last summer, the automaker moved from the "experiment" phase to the "pilot" phase for a couple of the experiments, including the GoDrive car-share service.


Ford GT to use lightweight
'Gorilla Glass' windshield

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
December 16, 2015

Ford Motor Co.'s 2017 GT supercar will feature the lightest, most durable windshield glass yet on an automobile.

The Dearborn automaker on Tuesday said it will debut on the GT an industry-first "Gorilla Glass" hybrid windshield developed with partner Corning Inc. It is 12 pounds lighter than a traditional windshield — a 30 percent weight savings — and is scratch-resistant.

The glass is about 25-50 percent thinner than conventional panels, but is much tougher. It will be used on the GT's windshield, rear engine cover and bulkhead, which separates the cabin from the engine cover. Ford hopes to add the glass soon on mainstream vehicles to help improve fuel efficiency and reduce break-ins and damage in accidents.

"We believe lightweight, tough, optically advantaged Gorilla Glass for Automotive is a game-changer for the industry," Wendell P. Weeks, CEO of Corning, said in a statement.

Gorilla Glass has been used for years in smartphones. The BMW i8 uses a single-layer version of the glass, but this is the first automotive application that uses the three-layer version.

The new glass uses three-layer approach with panes of toughened hybrid, a noise-absorbing thermoplastic interlayer and annealed glass. When shot at close range with golfball-size hail at 55 miles an hour, the Gorilla Glass doesn't break, while traditional glass does.

The glass underwent about four months of grueling rollover and impact tests. Ford officials said that while the glass is much less likely to break in the event of a crash, it complies with all safety requirements. Rescue teams will be able to get into cars if they have to.

The 2017 Ford GT, unveiled at last year's North American International Auto Show, is meant to be a testbed of Ford's latest technology. Engineers and designers spent 14 months crafting Ford's halo car inside a secret room in the corner of the automaker's Dearborn Product Development Center. It uses carbon fiber, aluminum and other materials to help reduce weight.

The car includes more than 50 sensors that generate 100 gigabytes of data per hour and feed 28 microprocessors which control everything from tire pressure to door latches. The GT has more than 10 million lines of computer code, about 8 million more than an F-22 fighter jet, Ford has said.

It's powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost — the same engine that debuted on Ford's Taurus SHO and is in the 2015 F-150 pickup. But the GT engine includes custom pistons, rods, turbos and cams that will help it get more than 600 horsepower.

The GT will be available in late 2016, and Ford will limit production to 250 a year. Ford has said it will be priced competitively with the Lamborghini Aventador, which starts at around $400,000.


Union vote certified at
Volkswagen plant in Tennessee

Associated Press
December 15, 2015

Chattanooga, Tenn. — The National Labor Relations Board has certified the United Auto Workers win in a union vote among skilled workers at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee.

The German automaker has said it will challenge a ruling that allowed the 162 workers who repair and maintain machinery and robots at the Chattanooga factory to seek to form their own bargaining unit.

A spokeswoman for the federal panel said parties have 14 days from the election certification to request a review.

The 108-44 vote earlier this month in favor the UAW marked the union's first win in a foreign-owned plant in the South.

Volkswagen said it wants union matters decided by the entire blue-collar workforce of 1,400 employees.


Tiny Ford Fiesta ST still walks tall

The 2016 Ford Fiesta ST is powered by a turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder with 197 horsepower and 202 pound-feet of torque. (Photo courtesy Ford/TNS)

Terry Box,
The Dallas Morning News
December 14, 2015

Compact cars live in the shadows of big BMWs and Benzes these days, bullied by Escalades and F-150s.

Most can barely step into the fast lane, much less live there.

Their profile is so low now they hardly muster a blip on anyone's radar, even when they're running flat-out on 635 or the Bush.

It's kind of like being stuck in the seventh grade.

But with gas way cheaper than beer, drivers don't care anymore about buzzing around all day in a small, sensible sedan on a spoonful of fuel. They would rather spend time with a bigger, flashier crossover or SUV or maybe a burly, heavy-metal, tobacco-chewing pickup.

Just don't tell Ford about small cars' hard fall from grace.

The Blue Oval still builds a couple of sneering, strutting compacts — back-alley lightweights with a welterweight punch.

And the best of this tiny roughhouse gang remains the Ford Fiesta ST, a dinky overachiever sedan that must see muscle and long legs when it looks in a mirror.

Even in a shade of metallic orange that can kill weeds, the 2015 ST I had recently was 2,700 pounds of pure grins and grit.

The Fiesta is Ford's most European car, shrunk to fit on narrow cobblestone streets and sip $8-a-gallon English gas. Lean and razor-cut, the ST appears shaped for speed, despite its tiresome, oversized grille.

Long, glaring headlamps push hard against that grille, cutting up into fenders so short they look like afterthoughts.

Meanwhile, a sloping hood flows into a huge, raked-back windshield and a taut roof that appears to be about four feet tall (and is actually 57.2 inches).

Though definitely small, the ST sports relatively large doors — mainly because its meaty 205/40 tires and big-boy 17-inch wheels got pushed to the corners of the car.

Moreover, the ST sits about an inch lower than a standard Fiesta as part of its tighter, corner-carving suspension.

With its aggressive dual-outlet exhaust system in back, the ST looks like a midget on a mission.

It feels that way, too. Beneath the ST's short hood lives a lusty turbocharged 1.6-liter four cranking out 197 edgy horsepower and putting the power to the pavement through the front wheels.

Normally, that's not a formula for fun — a healthy wave of horsepower and torque engulfing the front wheels.

But differentials have gotten so sophisticated that torque steer just isn't much of an issue.

The engine in the ST comes alive with a muted snarl and pulls strongly away from stops, free also of any noticeable turbo lag.

At about 2,500 rpm, the engine surges into the meaty part of its power band, romping to 60 mph in 7 seconds, according to Car and Driver.

And it feels even faster, crackling with the intensity you only get in a good road car, and able even to pull smoothly at 75 mph in sixth gear — a decent feat for a compact.

You probably won't do a lot of that in the ST. The car's light clutch and positive shifter are so good that it's more fun to downshift a couple of times and play with the gearbox, spurring the engine to its 6,400 rpm red line.

As good as it feels in a straight line, the ST excels in corners, turning into curves with almost rear-wheel-drive aggression and precision.

The suspension — and ride — are stiff, so the body barely flinches in hard, fast corners, and the little sedan will drift lightly before it lapses into understeer.

But even nearing the limit, the ST maintains good balance and composure.

And thanks to lightning-quick steering with a hefty, reassuring feel, you will be tempted at every curve in the road — just like lots of good things in life.

Go ahead and enjoy it. The ST is rated at 26 miles per gallon in town and 35 on the highway. No matter how western you get, it will usually still deliver more than 20 mpg.

What more can you ask, especially for $25,500?

Actually, I would have preferred a slightly less flinty ride and an interior that didn't shout "happy Halloween, heathen" every time I opened the door.

But that's relatively minor stuff. The black-and-orange interior in my ST came with the extrovert "molten orange" exterior.

Fortunately, it still offered some interesting shapes. A deep, rolling black dashboard included a quirky squared-off hood over the tachometer and speedometer.

The ST also flashed a busy center stack that had its own hood, looking kind of like some small house on a blackland prairie.

Still, most everything on the center stack was fairly functional and easy to use.

As you might expect in a car at this price point, the black door panels were mostly plastic with cloth inserts on the armrests. Just ignore the shocking orange-suede centers in the front seats. Focus on the fact that they are Recaros that provide excellent support.

The ST, of course, is happiest with few people aboard and a minimum amount of weight to lug.

But if you have to lug your in-laws somewhere, the back seat has surprisingly good headroom and acceptable legroom.

I just hope the ST and other really entertaining small cars can survive this bout of $2-a-gallon gas.

Four-dollar-a-gallon gas prompted the engineering and design that went into the ST.

With sales of the Fiesta fairly flat, Ford may be tempted someday to take all of the goodness in the ST and try to transfer it to a bigger, more profitable crossover.

So we may need to stash the ST in someone's garage until Wall Street and Big Oil can push the price of gas back over $4 a gallon.

2015 Ford Fiesta ST

Type of vehicle: Four-passenger, front-wheel-drive, four-door hatchback

Price as tested: $25,530

Fuel economy: 26 miles per gallon city, 35 highway

Weight: 2,745 pounds

Engine: Turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder with 197 horsepower and 202 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Performance: 0 to 60 mph in 7 seconds

SOURCES: Ford Motor Co.; Car and Driver


Ford's Europe sales rise
20.4% in November

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
Dec 13, 2015

Ford Motor Co.'s Europe sales rose 20.4 percent in November and its market share there increase 0.4 percent.

The Dearborn automaker sold 101,500 vehicles in its 20 traditional European markets last month. Through the first 11 months of the year, sales are up 9.9 percent to 1,181,200.

Ford's market share was up to 7.9 percent in November, and up 0.1 percentage point to 8.1 percent year-to-date.

"We are finishing 2015 with a lot of momentum and well positioned for an even better 2016," Roelant de Waard, vice president, Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford of Europe. "The new Ford showroom — from our new family cars, to our performance line-up, to our SUVs and commercial vehicles – is attracting new customers and really changing our brand image."

Ford was the no. 1 brand for commercial vehicle sales last month, and is the no. 1 brand there through the first 11 months of 2015. Commercial vehicle market share was up 0.7 percentage points to 13.3 percent in November.

Commercial vehicle sales were driven by the family of Transit vans and the Ranger pickup, whose sales were up 10 percent in November and are up 32 percent year-to-date. Sales were driven by the all-new Mondeo and were up 350 percent in November, and up 76 percent year-to-date.

Ford's passenger car market share was up 7 percent in November, and up 0.3 percentage points year-over-year.

Ford President and CEO Mark Fields on Thursday said the automaker was "on a path to profitability," there, although he won't give a specific timeframe.

Ford is in the midst of a transformation in Europe that's included cutting jobs and closing plants in an effort to turn a profit in that region. Ford lost $1.1 billion before taxes in Europe last year.


GM ignition switch fund
offers $594.5M to victims

Melissa Burden,
The Detroit News
Dec 10, 2015

More than 90 percent of those who received offers from the General Motors Co. ignition switch compensation fund have opted to accept them, including all of the 124 families whose loved ones' death claims were tied to the defective switches, according to a final report released early Thursday.

Of the 399 claims that were approved out of 4,343 received, a total of $594.5 million in compensation was offered to claimants, according to the report issued by Washington attorney Kenneth Feinberg. Feinberg was tapped by GM last year to serve as an independent administrator for a compensation fund the automaker set up for those injured by the ignition switch issue or for families whose loved ones died as a result of crashes with the defect.

GM ultimately also paid for accidents that occurred before its 2009 bankruptcy, which if the cases had been tried in court it may not have had to given a bankruptcy shield it had after the new company was formed. GM has a legal shield that protects the "new" GM from claims that originated before its 2009 bankruptcy and restructuring.

The fund said it received 856 claims for accidents that happened before July 10, 2009 or pre-bankruptcy; 128 of those claims were accepted. Claims were submitted for 3,105 incidents that occurred after GM became a new company in July 2009 and the fund accepted 271 of those. Another 382 had no data.

The report said 37 people who received offers rejected them — mostly for more minor injuries — and one claim is pending acceptance. That offer expires Jan. 6, 2016.

Feinberg and his firm said the success of the program was tied to several factors such as GM sending out more than 5 million notices to current and former owners of the eligible vehicles, and the administrators having discretion on eligibility and how much to award each claimant. GM placed no cap on the program and agreed to pay whatever the fund found appropriate in every case.

The program also sought to have a quick response that was consistent and also cost effective. The fund did not require engineering analysis to determine whether the ignition switch defect "manifested itself in a particular accident or whether a particular death or injury was 'caused' by an ignition-switch defect. The facility also did not consider legal defenses that might otherwise be available to GM in litigation, such as contributory negligence, statutes of limitations, or the bankruptcy shield."

In early 2014, GM recalled 2.59 million older Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions and other small cars for defective ignition switches that could move from the "run" to the "off" or "accessory" position while driving, disabling air bags and power steering. The carmaker knew of the problem for more than a decade before recalling the vehicles.

The automaker said last year that the defect was linked to 13 deaths.

Feinberg ultimately linked the ignition switch defect to 124 deaths and approved 18 claims for severe injuries such as those who are quadriplegic, had pervasive burns or permanent brain damage and 257 other claims for those whose injuries required hospitalization or treatment following a crash. The fund deemed 3,944 claims ineligible.

Just 9.2 percent of all claims received were approved; some were rejected because they were for accidents that involved cars that weren't part of the recall and others were not approved because there was not evidence air bags failed to deploy. Claims were accepted between Aug. 1, 2014 and Jan. 31 this year, after the automaker extended accepting claims by a month.

"We faced the ignition switch issue with integrity, dignity and a clear determination to do the right thing both in the short and long term," GM spokesman James Cain said in a statement. "The settlement facility is just one example. It was fair, compassionate, generous and non-adversarial."

The Detroit automaker through Oct. 16 said it had paid $453 million to about 300 claimants, victims and families who lost loved ones due to the defect. GM has estimated the cost of the compensation program will total $625 million.

GM is paying at least $1 million related to each death claim and gave Feinberg and his staff the final decision whether to approve or reject claims. The company did not cap the amount Feinberg could award but he was not allowed to assess "punitive damages."

In exchange for taking the award, the people have agreed not to sue the automaker.

The fund also tracked stats around contributory negligence. It said of the 399 claims it approved, 244 or 61 percent involved accidents in which it had "clear evidence" of one or more examples of contributory negligence such as not wearing a seat belt, excessive speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, falling asleep or were driving recklessly.

"In such cases, claimants would confront serious legal challenges if litigating in the courtroom," the report said. "By ignoring any evidence of such contributory negligence, the program proved to be a preferred avenue for individuals seeking compensation."

GM has paid $900 million to the Justice Department in a settlement reached in September following an investigation over the delayed recall and in spring 2014, GM admitted it broke the law and paid a $35 million civil penalty to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It also entered into an up to three-year consent agreement with NHTSA and has made significant safety changes at the company. GM also has a new federal monitor as part of its deferred prosecution settlement with the Justice Department.

The company still faces likely additional fines and settlements due to the ignition switch defect. It faces investigations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Trade Commission, 50 state attorneys general and Transport Canada. GM also in a regulatory filing in October said it was aware of more than 100 economic loss cases in the U.S. and more than 200 cases alleging injury or deaths tied to recalls, with more cases pending in Canada.


Ford Consumers

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
Dec 9, 2015

Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday released its annual trends report, which looks at microeconomic factors that are expected to influence consumers and brands for 2016 and beyond.

The report gives insight into why customers like certain apps in their vehicle, why they're picking SUVs over cars, and what kind of customer experience they want at dealerships and service centers. It examines their changing views on health, consumption, transportation and work, and how they relate to automotive and other industries.

This year, the report found an underlying level of optimism.

"In our four years of researching and compiling consumer trends, never have we seen optimism, resilience and self-reliance figure so prominently," Sheryl Connelly, Ford global trend and futuring manager, said in a statement. "It gives us hope for what the future holds, and we see that same creativity and enterprising spirit driving innovation in every part of our business at Ford."

Among its findings, the report discovered more than half of millennials agree "that standing out is more important than fitting in — revealing an increased focus on self-reliance and purposefulness."

It also said consumers are eager to spread good news instead of bad. It found the elderly are trying to enhance their quality of life and do things like continue to drive. And it looked at new technologies and demands on time are creating a need to be connected at all times — even behind the wheel.

"These insights help us to create products and services that not only exceed today's expectations, they provide innovative ways of looking at how to tackle challenging situations of tomorrow," Connelly said.

The report looks at about 10 major trends that affects customers' lives. They're not all automotive-related, but Connelly said they can help the automaker in every aspect of its business.

"We strive to make people's lives better," Connelly said. "If we can make mobility a force for good ... we can move closer to our goal."

Last year, the Dearborn automaker's trends report focused on generation Z — generally regarded as those born after 1993 — and their responses to questions ranging from climate change and job searches, to eating habits and marriage.


Workers' economist Jim
Stanford leaves for Australia

Labour economist Jim Stanford reflects on a two-decade career at the CAW, and now Unifor, amid growing income disparity.

Toronto Star
Vanessa Lu Business
Dec 08 2015

Jim Stanford is one of Canada's best-known economists, but he doesn't sit in a glitzy bank tower.

Instead, he's been the voice for organized labour for two decades, analyzing auto contracts to global trade deals, crunching the numbers, but explaining arcane economic terms in plain language.

"Most people are intimidated by economics. People are turned off by the jargon and the numbers," said Stanford, 54, who is quitting his position as economist for Unifor.

He and his family including two teenage children are moving to Australia where his partner Donna Baines, a former McMaster University professor, has become chair of the social work department at the University of Sydney.

"It's a two-career family. It's very hard to balance," Stanford said. "But it's also an abundance of riches. Lots of families struggle to have one income. We're very lucky."

And that's part of Stanford's constant concern – about the widening income disparity in Canada, as he looks back on a career that began in 1994.

Newly armed with a Ph.D., from the New School in New York, after studying at Cambridge University and the University of Calgary (where Stephen Harper had an office just down the hall), Stanford was looking for an academic post.

But those were hard to come by, so Stanford, who had previously done some union work for CUPE, became the first economist for the Canadian Auto Workers union, hired by then-president Buzz Hargrove.

"There were always bank economists and chamber of commerce economists," Stanford said. "Now you could have somebody speaking from the workers' perspective."

The union was expanding, going beyond its auto roots, so it needed a better understanding of different sectors.

The union, now known as Unifor, the result of a merger with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union in 2013, represents workers in 20 sectors.

It's even trying to work with those who can't organize such as freelance writers and ministers and employees of the United Church of Canada.

The changing world of work is a growing worry, where precarious work is becoming more common, with people in contract jobs, with part-time work, without predictable hours.

"It's a huge change. By and large, we don't represent them, but an injury to one is an injury to all," he said.

That means lobbying for changes from raising the minimum wage to legislative changes to protect workers.

Stanford, who hasn't firmed up work plans yet in Australia, will teach graduate economic policy courses for McMaster University part-time, occasionally in person and from afar.

As well, he will stay on as a special adviser to Unifor president Jerry Dias, to remain "part of the family," and offer advice during the next year's auto talks with Chrysler, Ford and GM.

"Our main goal will be to get extra commitments for new investment at all three companies," Stanford said.

But given that the contracts negotiated by the United Auto Workers had a tough time winning ratification in the United States, it will be challenging here too.

"I think there was general resentment among UAW members, and a potential problem of expectations. The industry is making money and 'we should be back to the good old days,' " Stanford said.

But those days are gone, he said.

The industry is poised for some better times – and the industry has wealth that it can share with the workers, but fewer people today are driving cars made by the Big Three, he said.

"There's economic space to make some incremental gains, but we're not going to snap our fingers and we're back to 1999," he said. "That was the richest agreement."

The irony is that Stanford is heading down under just as Australia's auto industry is winding down. Ford is set to pull out next year as is Toyota and Holden, a division of General Motors is leaving in 2017.

Stanford sees parallels between Canada and Australia, given both are resource-dependent countries.

"I think manufacturing can come back (here). We need manufacturing to come back," he said. "It was a disastrous mistake to think Canada could be a resource exporter and nothing else.

"When oil was at $100 a barrel, some people though the streets would be paved with gold," he said. "That couldn't last."

Stanford argues there needs to be active strategies to develop industries, along with trade policies and government procurement to buy our own technology or airplanes.

He pointed specifically to Bombardier's struggling CSeries program, noting other aerospace manufacturers like Airbus and Embraer have government backing.

"It's picking a winner, but it's generally seen as 'pork barreling' to support an industry like aerospace. It's parochial, not recognizing what it's like in the world economy."

Stanford argues that the goal posts have shifted – everything from cutting corporate taxes to greater income disparity.

He noted that back in the 1990s, when the Royal Bank of Canada and GM Canada hit $1 billion in profit, it was big news. This week, when RBC posted $10 billion in annual profit, there was little reaction.

"Fewer Canadians are better off, than when I started, and many are worse off," Stanford said, adding a disproportionate share of new wealth has gone to the top 1 per cent of society. "That reflects the economy and political power."

His book, Economics for Everyone, which has just launched its second edition, is aimed at teaching Canadians about the economy and how they can change it.

"Canada has huge things going for it. Economic prosperity comes from work done with our brains and brawn to produce goods and services we need," Stanford said. "Canadians want to work. Canadians are hungry to work.

"We have the capacity to build a society that is prosperous for all of us."


UAW wins skilled trades vote
at VW plant in Tennessee

Michael Wayland,
The Detroit News
December 7, 2015

The United Auto Workers has won a union vote among skilled-trades workers at Volkswagen's lone U.S. assembly plant in Tennessee.

The workers who specialize in repairing and maintaining machinery and robots at the German automaker's factory in Chattanooga voted 108-44, or 71 percent, to have the UAW negotiate collective bargaining deals on their behalf.

The vote comes nearly 20 months after the union was narrowly defeated in an election involving all hourly plant employees.

Ray Curry, director of UAW Region 8 covering the South, commended Volkswagen employees for exercising their rights in a representation election.

"Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga have had a long journey in the face of intense political opposition, and they have made steady progress," he said in a statement. "We're proud of their courage and persistence. We urge Volkswagen to respect the decision of its employees and recognize the local union as the representative of the skilled trades unit."

Earlier, UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell had said he was "confident" that a group of Volkswagen AG skilled trades workers in Tennessee would vote in-favor of union representation.

"I've been confident about that from the beginning," he said during a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV investment announcement on Friday in Detroit. "Once you get away from all the interference, you give people a chance to talk to people ... it's a whole different thought process."

The UAW suffered a large setback in February 2014, when workers voted 712-626 to reject creation of a German-style works council. The vote was conducted amid heavy anti-union campaigning from Republican lawmakers in the state.

Two days of voting for the 165 skilled trades workers who maintain and repair machinery and robots at the German automakers' lone U.S. plant started Thursday.

The election took place despite a planned appeal by Volkswagen of a federal labor ruling allowing the smaller group of workers to seek to join a union rather than requiring a vote by all 1,400 hourly employees.

Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the UAW and director of the international union's Transnational Department, said urged Volkswagen to drop its plans to appeal the outcome of today's election.

VW has more than 100 plants worldwide, and only the Chattanooga plant is non-union.

The small victory comes less than a month after the UAW wrapped up contentious contract negotiations with General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler. The 2015 negotiations between union and Detroit' automakers revealed underlying frustrations with much of the union membership, but ultimately left workers with more money and job security through at least the next four years.

Fiat Chrysler workers rejected their first contract offer before approving a richer second offer. And although the overall majority of workers at General Motors favored the deal, skilled trades workers opposed it and caused a week-long delay before union leaders declared it ratified. Ford workers narrowly passed their four-year pact by 51.4 percent.

Jewell said the union is continuing to work on its communication process with the membership – a main concern from many members during the negotiations.

"You can never get enough communication, and a lot of our problem was the communication process," he said. "And it's not just at that time, it's ongoing – whether it's week-to-week, month-to-month, year-to-year … you're going to see us continuing to work on that."

Jewell declined to comment on if he was surprised that the votes at GM and Ford were so close following Fiat Chrysler workers overwhelmingly ratifying the second deal.


Retiree Terry Fitzpatrick
Passes Away

Terry Fitzpatrick
Oct 27, 1936 - Dec 6, 2015

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the
passing of Retiree Terry Fitzpatrick on December 6, 2015.

He was in his 79th year.

Terry retired from Ford Bramalea on January 1, 2000
with 30.2 years of service.

Our sincerest condolences go out to his family.

Funeral Arrangements

Carruthers & Davidson Funeral Home
509 River Road West, Wasaga Beach, ON L9Z 2X2


Visitation – Thursday December 10, 5-8 pm
Funeral – Friday December 11, 2pm

FitzPatrick; Joseph Terence

Died suddenly on Sunday December 6, 2015 at the Stayner Care Centre at the age of 79. Terry of Wasaga Beach, beloved husband of the late Lela. Loving father of the late Kevin (Camille), Brian (Jill), Theresa FitzPatrick and Amelda FitzPatrick. Cherished grandfather of Gitane, William, Lela, Joey, Colin (Anna) and Jamie and to great grandchildren Samantha, Lily, Rosie, Amy and Jesse. Predeceased by his parents Francis and Rose FitzPatrick. Dear brother of Jim (Carolyn), Kathleen, the late Ursula, Josephine, Angela, John and Michael. He will also be missed by his many nieces and nephews. Terry will be remembered for his love of family, friends and all things planes, trains and automobiles. Friends will be received at Carruthers & Davidson Funeral Home, 509 River Road West, Wasaga Beach, on Thursday December 10, 2015 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Funeral Service will be held in the Chapel on Friday December 11, 2015 at 2 o'clock. Reception to follow. If desired, donations in Terry's memory to the Wasaga Beach Food Bank or the Heart & Stroke Foundation would be appreciated by his family. For more information and to sign the online Book of Memories, log on to www.carruthersdavidson.com.



Ford recalling up to 452,000
cars, fuel tanks may crack

Brian Chappatta,
Bloomberg News
Dec 6, 2015

Ford Motor Co. will recall as many as 451,865 cars, including 411,205 in the U.S., because their fuel tanks may crack and leak gasoline, potentially leading to fire.

The company will recall its 2010-2011 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan models and won't charge customers if parts need to be replaced, according to a notice posted Saturday on the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website. Dearborn-based Ford said it isn't aware of accidents, injuries or fires related to the defect in the vehicles, which were built between 2008 and 2011.

Ford said the recall stemmed from customer reports in July that indicated fuel odors and leaks in the 2010 Fusion models. The cars were built in Hermosillo, Mexico. About 7,000 affected vehicles are in Mexico, and an additional 34,000 are in Canada.

In the U.S., once a manufacturer or NHTSA determines a vehicle is defective, the automaker will usually agree to issue a recall and to fix the defect for free. All the owner has to do is take it to a dealership affiliated with the manufacturer.


DEC 4, 2015 - TORONTO

Thank you to our Retirees for taking the time to participate in this important event. Proportionately local 584 Retirees had the largest turnout that day and that is something for all of us to be proud of.

Our support in addition to the other Big three locals was a good indication of how important the PCOLA is to our retirees and we were able to send that message to the delegates of the Ontario council and to our bargaining teams.

We have a long way to go to bring this issue into reality but I'm sure with your continued support it is achiveable.

So again thanks for your support and a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your famalies.

In Solidarity,

Chris Wilski
Retirees Chair
Unifor Local 584

Retiree Participants
Ric Devriese
John Christensen
Joe Marek
Vincent Mong
Peter Spiers
Wayne Reid
Henry Schouten
Doug Berry
Doug Beattie
Bob Bates
Reg Galbraith
Harry Deamer
Arvin Gangwar
Ernie Makay
Roz Monchamp
Orville Shaw
Frank Marek
Jerry Goodison
Chris Wilski
Claudio Parise
Peter Zebedee
Brian O'Dell
Pauline Wilski
Charlie Zammit
Alex Thompson
Marg Thompson
Eli Worniuk
Danny Chaisson
Brian Hurley
Don Barclay
Ron Carson
Frank Hunt
Tom Reynolds
Bill Aiken
Brian Evans
George Botic
Tony King
Dave Moran
Harry Chadwick
Wilmer Little
Dennis Leblanc
Ed Valdez

Local 584 Retirees

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Fiat Chrysler, GM and
Ford post Nov. sales gains

Melissa Burden,
The Detroit News
December 5, 2015

Tuesday, The German company attributed the delay to a systems malfunction released results Wednesday that showed the luxury brand's sales fell 11.7 percent year-over-year to 33,475.

Stacey Doyle, a senior auto industry analyst at TrueCar Inc., said Tuesday that when counting the estimated 10.01 percent drop for Mercedes-Benz, November would come in as the second-best November ever. The record for the month is 1.32 million vehicles sold in November 2001.

"It's going to be really close," she said.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US, General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. each posted November sales gains, led by Fiat Chrysler's 3 percent rise. The month included two fewer selling days than the same month a year ago and four selling weekends in the month, the first time that's happened since 2012. But consumers were enticed to buy vehicles with Black Friday sales and kept the pace of seasonally adjusted annual rate of auto sales in November at 18.19 million vehicles.

The industry has sold an estimated 15.83 million vehicles through November and appears on pace to possibly eclipse a sales record for the full year, several analysts say. The annual record is 17.4 million sales in 2000. November sales did not quite hit TrueCar estimates of 1.35 million sales, and Doyle also expects a close race on whether 2015 sales will top 2000 sales, or finish second-best. TrueCar predicts a double-digit sales increase in December — typically a big sales month for the industry — from a year ago.

In mid-November, LMC Automotive boosted its 2015 full-year U.S. new vehicle sales forecast to 17.5 million from 17.3 million. And Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, says the industry has a "strong potential" at setting a new record.

"There's nothing in place that is going to slow us down in December," he said, adding incentives and inventory are plentiful.

Doyle said strong economic fundamentals, low gas prices and confidence about finances are driving new vehicle sales. "I think that's just making consumers feel confident about making a big ticket purchase of a vehicle," she said.

Fiat Chrysler said its November sales of 175,974 marked the company's best November in 15 years as it posted its 68th straight month of year-over-year sales gains. Jeep brand sales jumped 19.9 percent year-over-year, while Ram sales were up about 0.5 percent. Chrysler sales fell 12.1 percent, Dodge brand sales slid 7.5 percent and Fiat sales dropped 2.6 percent.

GM said its U.S. sales rose 1.5 percent to 229,296, led by crossovers and trucks.

Chevrolet posted a 4.8 percent sales increase, and Cadillac sales also were up 1.8 percent. Buick brand sales fell sharply, down 16.6 percent year over year, while GMC sales were down 1.9 percent. GM also said it posted record average sales prices of $35,800 in November.

GM ran Black Friday promotions for Buick, Chevrolet and GMC, advertising savings of up to 20 percent. Fiat Chrysler's Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram brands also had Black Friday deals, including zero percent interest loans for up to 75 months; Hyundai offered customer cash.

"Holiday and Black Friday promotions generally resonated with consumers," said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst for AutoTrader.com


2-day union vote starts
Thursday at VW's U.S. plant

Associated Press
December 4, 2015

Chattanooga, Tenn. — Union voting gets underway for skilled-trades workers at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee on Thursday.

The two-day vote is about whether the 165 workers who maintain and repair machinery and robots at the German automakers' lone U.S. plant want to be represented by the United Auto Workers union in collective bargaining negotiations.

The election is taking place despite a planned appeal by Volkswagen of a federal labor ruling allowing the smaller group of workers to seek to join a union rather than requiring a vote by all 1,400 hourly employees.

The UAW has been thwarted for decades in its attempts to organize workers at foreign-owned auto plants in the South. The union was defeated in a vote among all hourly workers in February 2014.


Ford to invest $1.3B, create
2K jobs at Kentucky Truck

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News
December 3, 2015

Ford Motor Co. said it will invest $1.3 billion and create 2,000 new hourly jobs at its Kentucky Truck Plant to support the all-new aluminum 2017 Ford Super Duty heavy-duty pickup.

The money will be spent on an all-new body shop, facility upgrades and retooling to the 6 million-square-foot plant. Kentucky Truck currently employs about 4,400 workers who also build the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.

"With the introduction of the all-new Ford Super Duty, America's best-selling heavy-duty pickup, we expect to continue growing our truck leadership," Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of The Americas, said in a statement. "Through this investment, we are continuing to show our commitment to Kentucky and the city of Louisville, as well as bringing to customers industry-leading trucks to help them take care of business and earn a living."

The plant has already begun the upgrades and they're scheduled to be complete in the first quarter of 2016.

The $1.3 billion investment is part of the automaker's previous contract with the United Auto Workers and does not count toward the promised $600 million in investments at Kentucky Truck over the course of the new four-year pact that was ratified November 20. But the 2,000 jobs are part of the new deal's promise to create or retain 8,500 jobs between now and 2019.

Ford said some of the new positions could be filled with current employees, but a majority have not yet been filled. Those interested in applying have to do so in person at the Kentucky Career Center.

"Adding new jobs and more investment at Kentucky Truck Plant not only secures a solid foundation for our UAW members, but also strengthens the communities in which they live, work and play," Jimmy Settles, UAW vice president, National Ford Department, said in a statement. "Such success highlights our members' hard work and dedication to building world-class, quality vehicles like the Super Duty."

Ford in 2014 invested $80 million to Kentucky Truck to meet growing demand for Super Duty and $129 million at nearby Louisville Assembly to support Lincoln MKC production.

Kentucky Truck has produced more than 5 million Ford F-Series Super Duty trucks since it was introduced in 1999.

The new Super Duty is 350 pounds lighter than the current steel-body truck. The weight savings from the switch to a military-grade aluminum body was greater than 350 pounds, Ford said, but it took advantage of the weight savings to make the steel frame stronger and making the axles, springs and suspension beefier.

The new Super Duty has a redesigned front end that sets it apart from its smaller F-150 counterpart and includes custom grilles for four of its five trim levels — XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum.

The steel frame for the first time is fully boxed and includes six crossbeams that makes it 24 times stiffer than the old frame, Ford says.

It's the first major update since the Super Duty's introduction in 1999, and Ford executives say it's more revolutionary than the smaller F-150's switch to aluminum in 2015.

Dearborn Truck and Kansas City Assembly also received significant investments to retool those plants for the aluminum F-150, but Ford executives say the changeover won't be as extensive for the Super Duty since they've been through it already.

The Super Duty will go on sale late next year.


Canadians support reforms
to voting system, poll suggests

Gloria Galloway
The Globe and Mail
Dec. 02, 2015

Most Canadians believe the federal electoral system needs to be changed, and those who advocate reform want to ensure that winning parties occupy the amount of space in Parliament that is proportionate to their level of support across the country, a new poll suggests.

With the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau promising that the election of Oct. 19 will be the last conducted under the first-past-the-post system, the Broadbent Institute has commissioned a study to assess what Canadians think about the way they vote. The survey by Abacus Data is to be released Wednesday morning but an advance copy was obtained by The Globe and Mail.

The polling firm surveyed 2,986 adults, randomly selected from a large representative panel of Canadians, to find out how they believe elections should be restructured, and also to estimate how the results of the most recent vote would have differed under proportional representation and under a ranked ballot. Those are the two systems that Mr. Trudeau has said he will ask an all-party Commons committee to study as the government decides, within the next 18 months, which way to go on electoral reform.

A survey of the size conducted by Abacus is expected to reflect the broad opinions of the Canadian public within 1.8 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

The poll suggests that a ranked ballot would have given the Liberals – who won a majority despite receiving only 40 per cent of the popular vote – an even greater number of seats in Parliament. But proportional representation would have reduced them to a minority and given Mr. Trudeau about 40 per cent of the seats.

Under a ranked ballot, the Liberal seat count would have climbed from 184 to 217, the Conservatives would have dropped from 99 to 66 and the NDP would have inched up from 44 to 50, the poll suggests. But, under proportional representation, the Liberals would have fallen to 136 seats, the Conservatives would have climbed to 108 and the NDP would have jumped to 67.

When asked to rank the top goals of a voting system, the respondents at large said they wanted simple ballots, strong stable governments, the ability to directly elect the MPs who represent their constituency, and assurances that the government has MPs from each region of the country.

But among those who said they want change, the top goal was a system that ensures that the number of seats held by a party in Parliament matches its actual level of support across the country.

One of the overriding messages of the survey is that Canadians are not satisfied with the current system, said Rick Smith, the executive director of the Broadbent Institute, a left-wing think tank that was founded by former NDP Leader Ed Broadbent.

"About 40 per cent of people said yes, they would be up for major reforms. About 40 per cent of people said they would be up for some reforms. And the rest of folks weren't up for much," said Mr. Smith. "So that's a pretty healthy constituency of people looking for change."

Those surveyed were asked to rank four different electoral systems:

  • First past the post;
    •Pure proportional representation in which Canadians vote for a political party and each party gets the number of seats that corresponds to their percentage of the vote;
    •Mixed-member proportional representation in which there are two votes, one for the local candidate and one for a party, and each party gets the number of seats proportionate to the votes they received;
    •The ranked-ballot system in which voters rank all of the candidates and, if no candidate gets more than 50 per cent of the votes on the first ballot, the bottom candidates are eliminated and the support of the voters who ranked them first is transferred to their second choices, with the process continuing until someone tops 50 per cent.

Overall, 44 per cent of the respondents picked one of the two systems of proportional representation, while 43 said they were happy with first-past-the-post, and just 14 per cent said they liked the idea of a ranked ballot.

"There is some understanding that, if you have a stand-alone ranked ballot system, that alone will not give you a proportionate outcome," said Mr. Smith.

But the fact that 43 per cent of the respondents said they are happy with the way they currently vote, at the same time that 80 per cent said they are looking for some change, suggests Canadians are unsure about what should happen with the electoral system – and that Mr. Trudeau has his work cut out for him as he embarks on a process of reform.


Efficient, yes, but where
is the heart in home care?

André Picard
The Globe and Mail
Dec 1, 2015

The Victorian Order of Nurses was, for more than a century, the primary provider of home and community-based care in Canada.

Now it is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy.

Late last week, the VON shut down operations in six provinces – Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador – and filed for protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.

It will continue to operate in Ontario and Nova Scotia – at least for now.

The collapse of the iconic organization, founded in 1897 by Lady Aberdeen, was swift and brutal.

It also serves as a cautionary tale about Canadians' tortured relationship with medicare, in particular the conflicting desires to cling to our history of charitable provision of care and achieving efficiencies with unforgiving business models.

VON was trapped, and ultimately crushed, by that contradiction.

It was not the first – the Canadian Red Cross Society's legendary blood transfusion service flamed out in an even more spectacular fashion with the tainted blood scandal where 20,000 recipients contracted hepatitis C or HIV – and it will not be the last. Canadian Blood Services has taken over the former Red Cross role.

The health-care advocacy group Friends of Medicare said the near-demise of the VON is proof that "experiments in private care must be ceased."

But VON's story is much more complicated than the "public/good, private/bad" and "not-for-profit/good, for-profit/bad" narrative.

For a long time, governments funded not-for-profit groups in the health and social services sector – hospitals, home care, group homes, the Red Cross and so on – in a pretty loosey-goosey fashion. These groups did good, and they were funded relatively well.

But as budgets soared, new accountability measures were put into place. In the home-care sector, for example, competitive bidding was introduced.

Stodgy old organizations such as the VON were not ready, and did not adapt. Their market share fell from more than 90 per cent to about 20 per cent.

On the surface, this is a good thing. Canadians spend $219-billion a year on health care, including about $10-billion on home care and, as consumers and taxpayers, they deserve to get value for money.

While we like to preach the gospel of value-for-money, we don't measure it well – the ultimate irony being that expensive bureaucracies have been built to ensure home-care agencies are lean and mean.

VON had many disadvantages in a competitive marketplace – first and foremost that it never provided just home care to its clients. It delivered hot meals, made friendly visits (especially to veterans), ran adult daycare programs, provided respite care to families, visited new mothers and babies, did flu shots at home and countless other little things that never had a place in the accounting ledger. Some were covered by government payments, but many were not.

The VON supplemented its funds from government contracts with charitable donations. It had more volunteers (9,000) than staff (6,000).

VON also paid its workers a decent, living wage. The work force – mostly nurses and therapists – is unionized, salaried and they have benefits, including a pension plan.

In the brave new home-care industry, piece work is the norm, meaning nurses get paid per visit, and few have benefits, pensions or stable employment. It is also in the interest of workers (and employers) to get visits done quickly, and cram as many as possible into a day.

While this is a cost-effective business model, anyone with a loved one in home care knows that there is little continuity of care.

The relationships that are so important to intimate acts such as health-care delivery to frail seniors living at home are virtually non-existent.

When you have a strict business model, when all that matters is the much-vaunted bottom line, none of that gets counted.

The real tragedy in VON's unravelling is not that another home-care business is biting the dust (after all, there are hundreds more out there) – but that the "old-fashioned" way of delivering care – taking the time required to talk and listen to patients and treating them as people, not "units of service"; for example, not just changing their dressings, but feeding them and filling the fridge – is falling by the wayside.

With VON's collapse, we have a home-care system that may be more efficient – at least in theory – but one that has less heart.


Ford Labour costs to rise
about 1.5% a year after deal

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
November 30, 2015

Ford Motor Co. on Monday said its U.S. labor costs will increase less than 1.5 percent per year after its membership earlier this month ratified a new four-year pact with the United Auto Workers.

The Dearborn automaker said the deal, which includes across-the-board raises for workers, a $9 billion investment and the creation or retention of 8,500 jobs, will "effectively closes the labor cost gap to General Motors and substantially narrows the gap to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles."

The Center for Automotive Research estimated Ford's average hourly U.S. labor costs were $57 before the deal, and it predicts that number will rise to $60 by 2019. Coming into talks, GM's hourly labor costs were at $55 and FCA's were at $47. By 2019, CAR estimates GM's will be $60 and FCA's will be $56 per hour.

"This agreement enables us to further strengthen our business and continue investing in manufacturing in the U.S.," said Mark Fields, Ford president and chief executive officer. "At the same time, the agreement aligns our labor cost structure more closely with our competition and improves our manufacturing productivity and staffing flexibility."

Workers narrowly ratified the deal earlier this month by a 51.4 percent majority. The pact's fate came down to the final ballots at the automaker's Rouge Complex and ended a lengthy and sometimes contentious round of labor negotiations between all three companies and the union.

Ford said it will incur a $600 million hit on its fourth quarter financials, mainly because of the ratification bonuses associated with the deal.


How one book 50 years
ago completely changed
the auto industry

New York Times News
November 29, 2015

Few drivers could imagine owning a car these days that did not come with air bags, antilock brakes and seatbelts. But 50 years ago motorists went without such basic safety features.

That was before a young lawyer named Ralph Nader came along with a book, "Unsafe at Any Speed," that would change the auto industry. It accused auto makers of failing to make cars as safe as possible. Less than a year after the book was published, a balky Congress created the federal safety agency that became the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — an agency whose stated mission is to save lives, prevent injuries and reduce crashes.

Today, even some of the book's harshest critics acknowledge its impact.

"The book had a seminal effect," Robert A. Lutz, who was a top executive at BMW, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, said in a telephone interview. "I don't like Ralph Nader and I didn't like the book, but there was definitely a role for government in automotive safety."

If anything, he said, the regulations that followed leveled the playing field among auto makers.

"It sets ground rules where everybody has to do something and nobody has to worry" about being at a competitive disadvantage, Lutz said.

Nader's book was long in the making. He started researching automotive safety in 1956 as a second-year student at Harvard Law School and kept at it intermittently. He was inspired by books that prompted change, including Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring," which highlighted the dangers of the pesticide DDT to the environment.

"I aspired to the level of getting a law through, getting an agency to implement it," he said.

About 1965, when he had a few chapters and an outline, he began sending them to publishers. Things did not go well. One publisher replied with a short note. The book, it said, would be "of interest primarily to insurance agents."

Then Nader was approached by Richard L. Grossman, a New York publisher, who had read an article in The New Republic detailing Nader's concerns about automotive safety and his assertion that the Chevrolet Corvair was "inherently dangerous." He asked Nader to write a book, although he had doubts about its sales potential.

"The issue about marketing that book always was, even if every word in it is true and everything about it is as outrageous as he says, do people want to read about that?" Grossman said in "An Unreasonable Man," a 2007 documentary about Nader. Grossman died in 2014.

On Nov. 30, 1965, "Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile" was published. The first sentence did not mince words: "For over half a century the automobile has brought death, injury and the most inestimable sorrow and deprivation to millions of people."

The first chapter was aimed at the 1960-63 Chevrolet Corvair compact. Nader argued the rear-engine car had a suspension defect that made it easy for the driver to lose control and sometimes roll the car over. To this day, some Corvair enthusiasts dispute that assertion, although GM did make significant suspension changes starting with the 1965 model.

But most of the book focused on a long list of neglected safety issues ranging from brake performance to drivers' being impaled by noncollapsible steering wheels and poor crash protection. The sharp-edged theme was that there was a "gap between existing design and attainable safety" and the auto industry was ignoring "moral imperatives" to make people safer.

Nader said he culled his information from years of research with resources including lawsuits and depositions, congressional hearings and reports, engineering journals, discussions with auto industry engineers, whistle-blowers and sometimes the U.S. Patent Office.

It did not take long for the book to attract attention, including that of powerful legislators. In February 1966, Nader was asked by Sen. Abraham A. Ribicoff, D-Conn., to testify before a Senate subcommittee on automotive safety.

Joan Claybrook, who led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the late 1970s and later headed Public Citizen, a group Nader founded, said he went far beyond writing the book to press his case.

"He played a critical role in a very subtle way by using contacts with the media, communicating with them almost every day, giving them new ideas and new stories, talking to whistle-blowers," she said.

Nader's campaign also got an enormous boost and more credibility after General Motors was caught having private investigators follow and investigate him. The auto maker said it only wanted to know if Nader was working for any of the personal-injury lawyers in Corvair litigation. But at a meeting of his subcommittee, Ribicoff scorned that explanation and said the investigation was "an attempt to downgrade and smear a man." GM formally apologized.

By spring 1966, "Unsafe at Any Speed" was a best-seller for nonfiction, along with Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood."

Among those who greeted Nader's success with dismay was Edward N. Cole, who was the general manager of Chevrolet when the Corvair was being developed in what was seen as a bold and innovative move to offer a more fuel-efficient small car. One of the people driving a Corvair was his son David.

"I don't think he would ever had me driving a 1960 Corvair if he had any inclination there was a safety issue," said David Cole, former director of the University of Michigan's Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation and currently the chairman of the nonprofit AutoHarvest Foundation.

In a telephone interview, David Cole said his father — who died in 1977 in a plane crash — thought Nader did not understand the complexity and trade-offs of automotive engineering and that the book encouraged people to sue the auto industry.

"That book was one of the key factors that ignited this whole litigious thing," he said.

In September 1966 — about 10 months after the book was published — President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, requiring the adoption of new or upgraded vehicle safety standards, and creating an agency to enforce them and supervise safety recalls.

Suddenly, what consumer advocates saw as an unfettered auto industry was facing much stronger federal oversight.

A host of new or stronger safety requirements led — often after stiff opposition — to new technologies like air bags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control and, recently, rearview cameras and automatic braking.

Indeed, the death rate has dropped strikingly. In 1965, there were about five deaths for every 100 million miles traveled, according to the traffic safety agency. In 2014, the most recent year available, there was one death for every 100 million miles.

"If you just simply focus on things like the death toll, clearly the act has been a success," said Clarence M. Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, which was founded in 1970 by Nader and Consumers Union, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.

But Ditlow, and Nader, have long pushed for more stringent action from the traffic safety agency, whose leaders were often political appointees. A New York Times investigation last year found that the agency had often been slow to identify problems and reluctant to use its full legal powers against automakers.

"For most of NHTSA's life they weren't fulfilling their mission," Nader said.

Still, Nader sees reason for optimism. The recent crisis in auto safety, which started with GM's disclosure that it had failed for more than a decade to disclose a deadly ignition switch defect in older cars, has led to a revived safety agency, which he said was "on the rise again."


U.A.W. Contracts Change
Math for Detroit Automakers

Bill Vlasic and
Mary M. Chapman
N.Y. Times
Wed Nov 28, 2015

When union contracts were finally ratified at Ford Motor and General Motors last week, a new era began in the American auto industry.

The deals, which culminated labor talks among the nation's three big automakers, were the most generous for workers in more than a decade and represented a striking shift from years of cuts and stagnant wages.

"The feeling among workers was that if you're not going to get the money now when we are near the top of the market, you're not going to ever get it," said Kristin Dziczek, a labor analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

But for automakers, the pay raises will add to the pressure to maintain profits and could spur a shift of less-profitable car production to Mexico from the United States.

Ford and Fiat Chrysler, for example, are considering moving some passenger car production to lower-wage factories in Mexico from American plants. In their place, the companies would make more high-profit trucks and sport utility vehicles in the United States.

That shift could cause production issues down the road, particularly if gas prices increase and temper consumer demand for pickups and sport utility vehicles.

"From the company's point of view, the U.S. is where you have to build your premium products," said Harley Shaiken, a University of California, Berkeley professor who studies the auto industry. "To cover the cost of labor, you have to go upscale."

It is all part of the delicate series of changes needed to solve the two-tier wage problem that has been dogging the United Automobile Workers since the system took effect in 2007.

And it was the primary hurdle that had to be cleared in the recently completed talks. When automakers began final negotiations on contracts this fall, their goal was to reward union workers financially while containing costs and preserving profits.

The companies were also willing to meet the U.A.W. halfway on reducing the gap in pay between entry-level and veteran workers.

But the strategy collapsed on Oct. 1, when workers at Fiat Chrysler overwhelmingly rejected a proposed contract that did not eliminate the divisive two-tier wage system.

"We showed we aren't quite as naïve as they thought," said Scott McGinnis, an entry-level worker at a Fiat Chrysler plant in Michigan. "After that first agreement, a lot of people were insulted."

It was a stunning rebuke of the company and the U.A.W. leadership, and completely altered the course of the talks — and ultimately the cost structures of G.M., Ford and Fiat Chrysler.

Since then, all three companies have agreed to contracts that provide a defined path for every worker to earn the top union wage of $29 an hour.

The richer contracts also underscore how healthy the Detroit companies have become since G.M. and what was then the Chrysler Corporation slipped into bankruptcy and needed government bailouts to survive just six years ago.

Sales of new vehicles in the United States are expected to hit 17 million this year, the most in a decade, and possibly exceed that in 2016. In that environment, the time was ripe for workers to cash in.

Ms. Dziczek estimated that over the life of the four-year agreements, average hourly labor costs — including health care and other benefits — will rise about 5 percent at Ford, 9 percent at G.M., and 19 percent at Fiat Chrysler.

The increases are partly based on the number of entry-level workers at each company, and the impact that progressive pay increases will have on overall costs.

But even with the wage increases and a combined payout of nearly $1 billion in signing bonuses for union workers, the automakers are still well positioned for strong earnings, and able to invest in plant improvements and technology.

With vehicle sales and sticker prices rising, G.M., Ford and Fiat Chrysler can probably absorb higher wages while maintaining their profit margins in North America.

Executives at the car companies have refrained from publicly discussing the outcome of the labor negotiations and contentious votes by union members.

Dennis Williams, the U.A.W.'s president, has also declined interview requests since Ford workers approved their contract last week by a 51 percent majority.

But interviews with workers and union officials show that anger on the shop floor over two-tier wages was the deciding factor in the changes in the contracts.

On Sept. 15, Mr. Williams emerged from talks with Fiat Chrysler's chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, with an initial contract proposal that would have raised lower-tier workers' pay to $25 an hour, from $16 to $19 an hour, over the life of the deal.

"We won tremendous gains," Mr. Williams said at a news conference, in which he hugged Mr. Marchionne for their collective effort.

But a few days later, a top U.A.W. bargainer, Norwood Jewell, was heckled and booed when he presented the tentative agreement to workers at Fiat Chrysler's big Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio.

A video of the meeting (Click Here), posted on a socialist website, illustrated the clash. Mr. Jewell was shouted down as he defended terms of the agreement, with one worker yelling out, "Are you working for us or Sergio?"

When the contract went to a vote, about 87 percent of the 4,800 workers in the plant voted against it. Other factories also turned it down by big margins. When the final results came in, 65 percent of Fiat Chrysler's 37,000 workers had rejected it.

"There was a lot of anger because people had an expectation that since Chrysler was in the black again, selling vehicles and making profits, it was our time," said George Windau, a veteran worker at the Toledo plant.

The head of the plant's union local, Bruce Baumhower, said his members were upset that the proposed deal left entry-level workers well short of the top union wage.

"They wanted to see a way to eliminate that," he said. "But what they got left them about five dollars short."

After the defeat, the U.A.W. leadership reopened talks with Fiat Chrysler.

The union also hired a public relations firm, BerlinRosen, to improve communications with workers on the U.A.W.'s website and Facebook pages.

Within a week, a new deal was struck between the union and Fiat Chrysler with a crucial concession — lower-paid workers would reach the top wage scale after eight years of service. The new agreement was then ratified by a vote of Fiat Chrysler workers, and used as a template for the contracts at G.M. and Ford.

But without the lopsided defeat of the first proposal, the two-tier system would have stayed in place for another four years.

Fiat Chrysler workers like Darlene Rau were gratified that new employees and veterans stood together to reject the initial contract.

"I was kind of surprised it went down because I didn't think we were so united," said Ms. Rau, who has worked for six years at the company's Jeep plant in Detroit.

Now, her pay has jumped to $24 an hour from $19, and she will reach the top wage before the contract ends. "I can actually pay my bills," she said. "And have a little bit left for me."


Millennials favor
performance vehicles

Michael Martinez,
Detroit News
Nov 27, 2015

Ford Motor Co. has placed an emphasis on performance vehicles, and a new study suggests those vehicles resonate well with the largest group of car buyers — millennials.

MaritzCX, the world's largest customer experience technology company, found those Ford customers age 18-34 are twice as likely to cite "fun-to-drive" as the most important reason for vehicle purchase compared to millennials who shop for other brands.

"These younger customers come into Ford looking for performance and vehicles that are fun to drive," said Erich Merkle, Ford's sales analyst. "We've been working to open up the breadth of our performance vehicles across our entire lineup. That gives us an advantage."

Since the start of the year, the Dearborn automaker has introduced a new Focus RS, F-150 Raptor, Mustang Shelby GT350 and Shelby GT350R and GT supercar.

Ford said it plans to introduce 12 or more performance vehicles by 2020.

Merkle said sales of Ford performance vehicles — which also include its Fiesta and Focus STs, and Explorer and Edge sports packages, among other vehicles — are up 30 percent this year compared to 2014.

"Younger buyers are hard to satisfy," said Dave Fish, senior vice president, expert services, MartizCX. "Between styling/performance, rebates, and good in dealership treatment, Ford appears to have a edge on the competitive millennial buyers."

The Maritz study also found millennials favor good fuel economy and a larger amount of Ford millennial customers (19 percent) identify as Ford loyalists compared to other brands (9 percent).

The study also said that millennials who buy Fords list the salesperson at the dealership as the "most influential source of information" at a higher clip than millennials who buy other brands.

"When they get to the dealership, they are pleasantly surprised," Fish said.


Custom Ford Focus a
fountain of inspiration

The 2015 Focus ST by Rally Innovations offers inspiration for those looking to upfit their own version of the sporty hatchback.

Larry Edsall,
Detroit News
November 26, 2015

Each year at the automotive aftermarket industry trade convention, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show, four awards are given to honor the automakers whose vehicles most frequently are chosen by accessory and customization parts producers to showcase their wares.

At the most recent SEMA Show, the vehicles most popular with the customizing crowd were: 4x4: Jeep Wrangler, Truck: Ford F Series, Car: Ford Mustang and Sport Compact: Ford Focus.

Our focus here is on the Focus, the company's compact but sporty hatchback that has become popular with younger buyers not only for its price and practicality, but because it can be anything from a commuter vehicle to an all-out rally cross racer. Customized and modified Focuses were all over at SEMA, but none was quite as radical, or eye-catching, as the 2015 Ford Focus ST by Rally Innovations.

OK, you may not have the budget or expertise available to Anaheim, California-based Rally Innovations, but its tweaks can give you ideas and point you in the right direction both in visual and performance alterations.

Rally Innovations started with a 2015 Focus ST, a fun driver powered by Ford's 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged EcoBoost engine, good for 252 horsepower, 270 pound-feet of torque and equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox. But to extract even more from the engine, it added intake and exhaust systems and an intercooler by Greddy and a Cobb Tuning Accessport, a plug-in and play, hand-held device that adjusts the engine's computer so you can commute calmly during the week and roar around the pylons on weekends without the need of a wrench.

Rally Innovations also tweaked the car's suspension with RS-R Sports-i coilovers, Ri Concepts slotted brake rotors, Whiteline camber-adjustment bushings and a Cobb Tuning adjustable shift plate. To make the most of the suspension changes, it bolted on a set of 19-inch Rays 57 Xtreme wheels wrapped with Nitto NT550 tires.

Since this vehicle is meant to be exercised to the extreme, it also got a roll cage within the passenger compartment, Cusco/Bride Euroster II+C adjustable racing seats with four-point safety harnesses, red LED lighting accessories and, for those non-competitive driving times, an upgraded Sony 401A sound system.

If you're looking to be in stealth mode, you could stop right there. Rally Innovations did not. It added Baja Designs LED exterior lighting, its own aero body kit with three-piece aluminum front splitter, side splitters, wheel diverters and what it calls its Gundam-style vented hood, rear hatch spoiler, wide fenders, roof scoop, side moldings, camera mount and graphics. (Gundam comes from a Japanese anime television series featuring giant robotic warrior suits controlled by a human housed in a cockpit within the suit's torso.)

As if all that isn't flamboyant enough, the car is painted in House of Kolor "Sno White" Pearl and "Blood Red" with white, red and Graphite Gray accents.


Team Elected to Lead the
Ontario Federation of Labour

Chris Buckley
Photos - Chris Wilski

Nov 25, 2015

In a packed convention hall at Toronto's Sheraton Centre Hotel, 1539 delegates to the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) 2015 Biennial Convention elected a new leadership team to take the helm of Ontario's house of labour.

The election marked the end of six years of bold leadership from outgoing OFL President Sid Ryan, along with Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Hutchison and Executive Vice-President Irwin Nanda. Earlier this fall, all three officers announced their intention to not seek re-election. Former Unifor Local 222 President, Chris Buckley from Oshawa was unanimously elected OFL President and Barrie and District Labour Council President Patty Coates was also elected without opposition as the OFL Secretary-Treasurer. After a three-way race for the position of OFL Executive Vice-President, Ahmad Gaied from UFCW Local 1000A was given a strong mandate to join the team of OFL Officers.

"My job is to make sure that this Federation pulls together! My goal is to unite our labour movement across Ontario and that starts with unity at YOUR OFL," incoming President Chris Buckley belted out to thunderous applause from delegates. "We owe it to workers today and to our collective future to champion a province-wide campaign to reshape labour laws in the interest of every worker in Ontario."

Coates, who hails out of OSSTF District 17, cited the current fight between Ontario's education workers, the province and school boards at a time of cuts to education as a case study in labour unity. "It is only when the fight of any worker becomes the fight of every worker that the labour movement can defend good jobs and strong public services that make our economy work for everyone."

At 33 years old, newly elected Ahmad Gaied, is the youngest officer in the 58-year history of the Ontario Federation of Labour. "I started work at a No Frills grocery store when I was 17 years old and I got my first experience with the incredible power of the union," said Gaied. "I am part of the new generation of workers who are facing the most precarious labour market in our country's history. I am committed to mobilizing youth and young workers to stop Ontario's race to the bottom."


Ford recalls 450K Fusions,
Milans for fuel tank issue

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
Wed Nov 24, 2015

Ford Motor Co. on Monday issued a recall for about 450,000 2010-11 Fusions and Mercury Milans for a potential issue with the fuel tank.

The Dearborn automaker said some of the vehicles might have a canister purge valve that does not work properly, causing internal pressure changes, which could lead to a crack, leaked fuel and potential fire if that fuel meets an ignition source.

The affected vehicles include Fusions and Milans built at the automaker's Hermosillo Assembly Plant in Mexico from July 21 2008 through March 4, 2011. About 411,205 of the vehicles are in the United States, 33,605 are in Canada and 7,055 are in Mexico.

Ford is not aware of any accidents, injuries or fires related to the problem.

The automaker said dealers will update the powertrain control module software, inspect the canister purge valve and fuel tank for leaks and replace if necessary for free.

Ford on Monday also issued a recall for 13 2016 medium-duty F-650 trucks for an issue with the steering column. The "park" position mechanism in the automatic transmission could fracture, resulting in unintended vehicle movement. The vehicles were made at Ford's Ohio Assembly Plant.

Dealers will replace the steering column and reconfigure the instrument panel at no cost to the customer, Ford said.


NHTSA closes inquiry of
faulty latches on Ford doors

Melissa Nann Burke,
The Detroit News
Nov 23, 2015

Washington — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is closing an investigation into 456,000 Ford Motor Co. cars for doors failing to latch or inadvertently opening, after it found that a recall fix remedied the problem.

The affected vehicles, model years 2011-2013 Ford Fiesta, the 2013 Ford Fusion and 2013 Lincoln MKZ, shared the same door-latch design.

The agency's analysis identified 281 complaints, with more than 100 claiming that the door opened inadvertently while the car was in motion. No crashes were reported; however three injuries were caused by a rebounding door striking people as they attempted to close it.

Ford had received 1,100 reports related to the problem, including two claims of low-speed crashes involving the door opening while driving and damaging property. Ford also had more than 10,880 warranty claims related to door-latch failures. Many customers said they had to restrain the door by looping the seat belt through the door, or using rope or tape to keep it closed, so they could drive.

The automaker issued a voluntary recall in April to replace all four door latches on affected vehicles with a new design. NHTSA says the recall appears to have addressed the safety risks and as a result it closed the investigation.

Ford has issued other recalls for door latch issues in the last year.


MKZ stuns with new Lincoln face

The MKZ’s new, one-piece grille is a departure from the current generation’s “split wing” grille.

Detroit News
Henry Payne
Nov 22, 2015

The MKZ, Lincoln's best-selling car, was due for a mid-cycle refresh for 2017 after its total redesign in 2013 on the same global platform as Ford's Fusion and European-model Modeo. But the face-lifted MKZ takes on larger importance in the luxury segment's highest-volume segment as Lincoln continues to reinvent itself as a more youthful, fashionable brand.

"While our competition's grilles emphasize aggression," said designer David Woodhouse in a clear reference at rival Lexus's polarizing grilles, "our design is more about seductive harmony."

Once written off as a senior citizen's brand, Lincoln's average buyer was 13 years over the segment's 54-year old average in 2008. Since then it has plummeted to 58 years old as Lincoln has introduced its well-received MKC and MKZ crossovers.

To complement its new look, the MKZ will get a more capable powertrain, with a twin-turbo, 400-horsepower, 3.0 liter V-6 engine — an engine exclusive to Lincoln's lineup. Only BMW, Cadillac and Mercedes offer twin-turbo 6-cylinders in the compact sedan segment — and only in low-volume, performance models. The twin-turbo will come with an all-wheel-drive system. A front-wheel-drive, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder motor will be offered as well as a hybrid version.

The new MKZ's interior also gets upgrades in keeping with Lincoln's three watchwords: quality, performance and style. The console eschews the old car's sliding controls for hard, round knobs found in the new MKX — and will come stuffed with autonomous technologies including: pre-collision assist, parallel and perpendicular park assist — and for the first time in the Ford family, "park-out assist." The cabin will also receive optional material upgrades including more seat stitching and Alcantara roof liner.

"Our customers are looking for three attributes in a luxury midsize sedan — technologies that ease their everyday experience," said Galhotra at the car's secretive, off-site reveal in downtown L.A.

The MKZ's wheelbase, roof line and rear lighting remain the same. It will go on sale next summer.


Ford-UAW deal passes
by narrow margin

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
November 21, 2015

United Auto Workers employees at Ford Motor Co. narrowly ratified a four-year contract that is among the richest in the history of collective bargaining between the two sides.

The deal was passed by a slim 51.4 percent margin, the union said late Friday. Roughly 51.3 percent of production workers voted for the deal, while 52.4 percent skilled trades said "yes."

Ratification of the Ford deal came hours after the union ratified the General Motors Co. contract, which had been held up for a week after rejection by skilled trades members. New labor deals are now in place at all three automakers after a long and often contentious process that's unfolded since the previous contracts expired Sept. 14.

The fate of the deal came down to the final ballots at UAW Local 600 in Dearborn, which finished voting at 6 p.m. Friday. Final results from the entire union local were not immediately released, but roughly 4,300 workers at Dearborn Truck passed it by a 74 percent margin, and roughly 1,600 workers at Dearborn Stamping passed it by a 71 percent margin. Local 600 represents about 8,200 total workers.

"Our UAW members have ratified the national agreement after a long process and much debate," UAW President Dennis Williams said in a statement. "The voice of the majority has secured a strong future that will provide job security and economic stability for themselves and their families."

John Fleming, Ford's executive vice president for global manufacturing and labor affairs, said, "This agreement provides a good foundation for Ford Motor Company, our employees and our communities as we work together to create an even stronger business in the years ahead."

UAW-Ford Department Vice President Jimmy Settles said, "There is no higher authority than the membership. Through a fair and democratic process UAW-Ford members have delivered job security and strong economic gains for their families and communities."

But almost immediately, some workers took to the UAW International's official Facebook page and called for a recount.

"Recount & investigation required!!!" a Facebook user named Jeff Mathews posted on the page.

"The votes didn't matter," wrote another Facebook commenter named Brian Adair. "It was going to pass regardless. That's how crooked they are."

The Ford deal gives all workers significant raises. It includes $9 billion in plant investments, more than General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles combined. And it creates or retains 8,500 jobs. Workers will receive $10,000 bonuses, and retirees will get $1,000 total over the course of the four-year pact.

But some workers wanted more. Many believed the eight-year progression to top wages should have been shorter and felt retirees deserved more. They wanted back all the concessions they had given during the economic downturn when the automakers were struggling for survival.

"Why can't we get back to the pay and benefits we used to have? Don't tell us the company can't afford it," said Gary Walkowicz, a bargaining committee member from Local 600 in Dearborn, who has openly opposed the deal.

On Wednesday, the union launched a last-ditch effort to save the pact as UAW-Ford Vice President Jimmy Settles and Local 600 President Bernie Ricke called a news conference in Dearborn to emphasize the contract's benefits. They warned that a better deal likely wouldn't happen. But "no" votes from large plants in Chicago and Dearborn made passage of the deal less likely.

"A lot of people are upset," said Joe Marx, 45, a Local 600 member who recently was bumped up from second-tier wages. "It's not a totally bad contract, but when you get to the heart of it ... it's not like it used to be."

Art Wheaton, a labor expert from Cornell, said the close vote means both sides did their job.

"They did not do a bad job of bargaining," he said. "They got quite a bit."


Memory, fantasy collide
in UAW contract drama

Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
Nov 20, 2015

What do you get when you combine short memories with social media?

Answer: the trainwreck that is the United Auto Workers ratification votes this fall. Rarely in the course of this town's epic labor-management history have such objectively rich contracts encountered such stiff resistance.

Blame, well, who — or what? Until now, the underappreciated power of Facebook and Twitter to turbo-charge critiques and outflank union leaders long accustomed to telling members what's good for them and expecting enough of them vote accordingly? Partly.

Union leaders who struggle to understand how quickly the information landscape is changing, how smartphones can consume far more information far more quickly than any union hall meeting can dispense? Partly. Even corrections following rejection of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV deal aren't proving enough to get deals with General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. ratified.

Company executives, who figured record signing bonuses, base wage-rate increases in two of the four years and essentially maintaining the status quo on health care would seal the deals? Yep, forgetting that the social media they do not control is the perfect tool for amplifying beefs and magnifying their Achilles heel known as fat executive pay.

Second-tier hires, who get paid less for doing the same work alongside their "traditional" brothers and sisters for some or all of the past four years? Sure. The dirty little secret of two-tier wages, instituted in the 2007 talks, is that they traded jobs for pay. Now that the push back is winning more pay, even if over eight years, the result will be fewer jobs.

Traditional workers, some of whom evidently came to view the past seven years of concession, restructuring and renewed profitability as an aberration in an otherwise long, slow, comfortable arc of Detroit decline? Unfortunately, yes.

Said Gary Walkowicz, a bargaining committee member from Local 600 in Dearborn: "The Ford contract ... does not repay us for all the concessions we have given up. It does not even bring us back to the standard of living we were at before the concessions started.

"Yes, there is more money than in the last contract," he continued in a statement. "But the legacy workers are still not nearly back to what we had before. The second-tier workers are facing a future living worse off than their parents. Why can't we get back to the pay and benefits we used to have? Don't tell us the company can't afford it!"

Ford, of course, could afford to bring it all back — if, that is, the definition of affording it includes a U.S. market that runs at nearly 17 million units a year, gas closer to $2 a gallon than $3, historically low interest rates and an average fleet age of nearly 11 years, to name just a few.

But if they're gonna bring it back, how 'bout bringing back all of it? Bring back the Jobs Bank, that totem of Detroit dysfunction members of Congress and the Obama administration's auto task force — no enemy to the UAW — used to bash the union and the automakers.

Bring back COLA, the automatic wage escalator masquerading as a cost-of-living adjustment that ballooned payrolls and pension payments over and above any base-wage increases.

Bring back the debt that weighs heavily on the balance sheet; spurn the $23 billion "home improvement loan" that former CEO Alan Mulally used to rebuild the Blue Oval; restore the excess plant capacity that bleeds cash wherever demand is insufficient; widen the all-in labor cost gap with foreign-owned automakers operating in the United States.

Toyota, Nissan and Honda would love it, Wall Street would howl and skeptics in the general public would say "same Old Detroit — how quickly they forget."

Look, I know all of this draws charges of anti-unionism: no one wants union members to get paid a living wage; without UAW pay and benefits there will be no middle class and no jobs; without a middle class, there is no wealth; without wealth, there are no taxes and no economy.

None of which is relevant here because these contracts are not a binary choice between the contract on offer and nothing. They're a choice between the perfect and the good, between restoring the bad old days and providing meaningful financial gains for members, between losing a competitive edge and maintaining it — the best job security of all.

If there's anti anything here, it's anti-fantasy. The gulf separating UAW leaders from their members appears wider than Solidarity House may be prepared to acknowledge, but that doesn't mean Solidarity House's view of what constitutes a balanced contract is wrong.

As they are, the union's proposed contracts with GM, Ford and FCA favor short-term financial gains for existing members over longer term prospects for job growth in U.S. plants. Getting more now is a legitimate choice for UAW members, but it won't come without a cost.



Ford vote shows disconnect
between UAW leaders, workers

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
November 19, 2015

A tentative deal between Ford Motor Co. and the United Auto Workers that stands on the brink of rejection continues a pattern of contentiousness in the contract talks between the rank-and-file and their elected union leaders.

With three-quarters of votes recorded, a 52 percent majority of UAW workers at Ford so far have voted against the deal, despite significant raises for all workers and $9 billion in plant investments — more than at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and General Motors Co. combined.

The unexpectedly close Ford vote prompted the union Wednesday to call an unusual press conference, at which UAW-Ford Vice President Jimmy Settles and Local 600 President Bernie Ricke emphasized the current tentative agreement includes significant gains, and that workers are unlikely to get a better deal if this one fails.

The press conference didn't have the desired result at Local 551, representing about 4,000 workers at Chicago Assembly. A 68 percent majority voted against the deal in voting that ended Wednesday night, hours after the UAW-Ford press conference ended. Thursday morning, though, Local 3000, representing 3,000 workers at Flat Rock Assembly, passed the deal by a slim 51 percent margin.

The trouble at Ford follows the sound rejection of a first agreement at Fiat Chrysler. At GM, disgruntled skilled trades workers have stalled ratification of their deal.

While there has been no strike, the trouble in passing the three deals — which all included plant investments and substantial raises for all workers — speaks to a disconnect between union members and their elected officers.

High expectations by workers and negative social media reaction have exposed the distance between a union leadership that has been mindful of the global market in which Detroit automakers operate, and rank-and-file members who haven't been so quick to follow.

At Wednesday's news conference, Settles said if the contract is rejected, Ford's $9 billion promised investment would be in jeopardy. So, too, could the survival of parts plants that the union was able to keep open in this round of talks.

"The irony of negotiations is when you go back to the table, everything's off the table," he said. "You're negotiating all new again. Some people think you just go open Door Number Two and see if something's behind there. That's not how real negotiations go."

Ricke echoed Settles' comments, saying it's not likely Ford workers would get a better deal if this one is voted down.

"If we thought there was another dollar on the table, we would have got it in the first one," Ricke said. "There's a lot of money in investment, there's a lot of money in wages and bonuses, and another key thing was the health care ... we made some enhancements. There's really a balance in the money in the agreement."

Settles told reporters, "We're optimistic. It looks dark now, but it might be light in the morning."

Passage or defeat of the contract will come down to the 8,200 workers represented by UAW Local 600. The local includes 4,300 union members at Dearborn Truck, which makes the F-150 pickup. The plant is scheduled to get $250 million in new investments and the addition of the new Raptor truck over the course of the four-year deal. The entire Rouge site, which includes smaller engine and powertrain plants, is set to get $415 million in investments and 400 new jobs.

Voting at Local 600 continues through Friday. The local alone has hosted 14 informational meetings to ease members' concerns, but Settles admitted there's growing discontent among many workers.

"I think it's just frustration, period," Settles said. "All across America there's low wages, people just need to make more money. It's not just autoworkers, it's everywhere you go, but we're fortunate autoworkers have a way to respond."

Ricke told reporters, "I'm confident our membership, when informed properly and when they get the facts, will support this agreement."

Some workers have expressed concern over the deal's eight-year progression for workers to earn a top wage; they believe it should be shorter. There's also been anger over a lower wage scale for parts workers, a $1,500 advance on profit sharing and the company's use of temporary workers.

Hisham Beydoun, 48, of Dearborn, said Tuesday that while the tentative agreement doesn't give veteran workers back all of their concessions from the recession, he supports the deal.

"I like it. It's the best we can get out of 12 years of having to get nothing," said the 26-year union veteran outside of Local 600 in Dearborn. "For a legacy worker like me, I got paid $28 an hour for 12 years. I didn't see a penny. So, for me, this is something.

"Yeah, I would have liked to have seen more. Did I get everything back? No."

Art Wheaton, a labor expert at Cornell University, said, "It's really hard to manage the expectations of your membership. It's even harder to control social media. It really blew up on them at Fiat-Chrysler.

"I thought Ford had taken the steps to do it the smart way, but even that didn't seem to satisfy people."


OFL Statement on the
Paris Attacks Refugees
and the Path to Peace

By Sid Ryan,
OFL President
November 18, 2015

The coordinated killings that rocked Paris over the weekend are an unspeakable horror. Ontario workers are united in our sympathy and solidarity with the victims, their families, friends and, indeed, the people of France who have been shaken by these attacks.

However, Canadians who have recently rejected former Prime Minister Stephen Harper's divisive politics now face an important test of our resolve. We must not allow the horrific nature of this atrocity to drag Canada back into the racism, Islamophobia and war-mongering that characterized our last government. The burden to hold firm on the change that we demanded in the October election is jointly shared between Canadians and our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

There has already been incredible pressure on the new Prime Minister to abandon the change he promised Canadians and to revert to Harper's politics of fear. It is up to Canadians – of every creed and colour – to stay firm in our commitment to receiving 25,000 Syrian refugees before the end of the year as a start and an end to the Canadian air strikes and military intervention in the Middle East that are contributing to the creation of more refugees and the radicalization of militant reactionaries in the region.

Here in Ontario, news soon traveled of a fire that was deliberately set at a Peterborough mosque, in what one can only assume is a racist backlash to the incidents in France. It is an important warning that we must refuse to allow ourselves to be dragged into Islamophobic prejudice, discrimination and harassment. When Canadians allow themselves to be divided and to apply blanket stereotypes that dehumanize an entire population of people, we validate the objectives of terrorists and play directly into the hands of hawkish Conservatives who now seek to exploit our fear.

As we talk to our co-workers, friends, family and our political representatives, we must remind them that many refugees are fleeing violence and war. They are not the perpetrators of murder, they are the victims of it, and they deserve safety just as much as we do. Canadians have a humanitarian obligation to open our borders and our homes in these times of crisis, just as we has done on so many historic occasions in the past.

There can be no justification or excuse for the mass killings of innocent people of Paris. These are the tactics of terror and they are designed to instigate further retaliation and conflict. We cannot play into that ploy.

Western bombing, drones, repression and killing in Syria or neighbouring countries will only provoke more awful terror in reply, just as past Western military attacks in the region have contributed to the creation of millions more innocent refugees, magnified the devastation, and fueled the recruitment efforts of the same forces that they sought to eliminate. We must find another way to end the conflict.

What Syrians truly need is diplomacy instead of bombs and military strikes. It is time for countries like Canada – and other G20 countries – to play a pivotal role in replacing power politics with a process of conflict resolution that empowers the people of Syria to determine their own collective future.

The horror experienced in Paris last week is not isolated, it has been played out with ruthless regularity in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine and many other countries, sometimes at the hands of Western forces. While Western hearts have been choked by the anguish of Parisians, we must also extend our horror and concern for millions of innocents throughout the world.

On behalf of the more than one million workers who are members of the Ontario Federation of Labour, I am calling on Canadians to oppose any backlash against refugees, migrants, Muslims and racialized people around the world. The strongest and boldest reaction we can have to terror is to say no to war and hatred, to open our doors to the victims of violence throughout the world and to assume a peacekeeping role that generations of Canadians have demanded.

In solidarity,
Sid Ryan
President, Ontario Federation of Labour

Ford debuts updated Escape
with new grille, technology

The fourth-generation 2017 Ford Escape will be unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Ford promises significant upgrades for features like lane keeping and park assist, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings and a driver alert system. The model will go on sale in the summer of 2016.  Ford Motor Co.

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
November 17, 2015

Ford Motor Co. is giving one of its best-selling vehicles a major upgrade with a new front end, redesigned interior and updated technology.

The Dearborn automaker on Tuesday will reveal the 2017 Escape at the Los Angeles Auto Show. It's the fourth-generation of the compact SUV that has traditionally been a platform for some of its newest technologies. In 2005, Escape debuted as Ford's first hybrid model; in 2013 it featured Ford's first hands-free lift gate; and last year, it debuted the Sync 3 infotainment system.

The 2017 version, which will go on sale next summer, will come with a significant upgrades for features like lane keeping and park assist, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warnings and a driver alert system. It will be the first vehicle to feature an expanded version of Sync 3 that includes an Apple and Android smartphone app that lets drivers remotely start, lock/unlock and check gas levels. Its gas-saving stop-start feature will be standard on the Escape's two new EcoBoost engine options.

"The compact SUV segment is the largest and most competitive in the United States, and the new Escape delivers even more of what our customers want — more technology they can really use to make their daily drive safer and easier," said Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas.

Beyond the technology, the refreshed Escape includes a number of cosmetic upgrades. The front end has been redesigned with the three-bar grille that's common on many of Ford's other SUVs and cars. And there are new LED headlights. On the interior, designers removed the intrusive parking brake lever on the center console in favor of an electronic push-button version to free up more room for storage; there's also a new center stack.

It's also been made quieter with insulated doors and new windshield sealing. "Customers equate quietness to quality," said Milton Wong, chief engineer of the Escape.

The SUV will come in its three traditional trim levels — S, SE and Titanium.

A 2.5-liter i-VCT four-cylinder engine carries over as standard on the S trim level. There are two new engine options: a 1.5-liter EcoBoost and 2-liter EcoBoost. The 1.5-liter will get an expected 180 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque, while the 2.0-liter will get an expected 245 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque.

Escape plays in one of the hottest segments in the industry. SUVs now account for about one-third of the U.S. auto industry, a number Ford predicts will grow to 40 percent by 2020. In the U.S., SUV sales are expected to exceed 5 million units in 2015 for the first time ever.

Since its launch in 2000, more than 3 million Escapes have been sold in the U.S., including a record 306,212 last year. Escape sales are up 1 percent through the first 10 months of 2015, according to Autodata Corp., and the compact SUV has overtaken the Fusion to become Ford's second-best selling vehicle, behind the profitable F-150 pickup. It trailed only the Honda CR-V in compact SUV sales last year, and Ford officials think they could overtake it if they had the room to build more.

Ford builds the Escape at its Louisville Assembly Plant. In its new tentative labor deal with the United Auto Workers, Ford promised to end production of the Lincoln MKC, also built at Louisville, when its product cycle ends to make even more Escapes.

Ford offers stop-start technology on a number of its vehicles, but Escape will be the first to come standard with the love-it-or-hate-it feature.

The technology senses when the vehicle is sitting idle and shuts off the engine to conserve fuel, resulting in a 4 percent to 6 percent improvement in fuel economy in stop-and-go traffic, Ford said. The engine restarts automatically – in less than half a second – when the driver releases the brake pedal.

"Auto start-stop is the equivalent of turning off the lights when you leave a room, or turning off a water faucet when you're done washing dishes," Wong said. "It's a high-tech approach to more efficient driving."

Despite being popular in Europe, it has yet to catch on in the United States because many drivers feel the feature is annoying and makes them think their cars have stalled when the engine shuts off at a light or stop sign. Ford has said it expects to offer the feature in 40 percent of its lineup by 2017. "We have to make sure we get this right," Wong said. "We almost want to make stop-start invisible, to where it just works."


Majority at Kansas City Assembly
vote against Ford deal

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
Nov 16, 2015

The road to ratification hit a speed bump Sunday night as a majority of workers at Ford Motor Co.'s largest plant — Local 249 in Kansas City — voted against a tentative labor deal between the automaker and union.

About 54 percent of production workers voted against the pact, while a slim margin of 50.2 percent of skilled trades workers voted for the deal, according to the union.

Kansas City is critical to Ford's operations. It builds the profitable F-150 pickup and Transit Van. The union threatened to strike there earlier this year when the two sides couldn't come to an agreement on a local contract, but they avoided a work stoppage hours before the deadline by agreeing to a deal.

It's scheduled to receive $200 million in new investments over the four-year pact.

More than a quarter of Ford's 52,900 workers have had the opportunity to vote on the deal, and despite Kansas City's results, a majority still favor it.

Earlier Sunday night, a majority at Local 2000, which represents roughly 1,450 workers at Ford's Ohio Assembly Plant, also voted "yes." About 51 percent of production workers and 55 percent of skilled trades workers voted in favor of the deal, according to the union.

Under the tentative contract, the Ohio Assembly plant would receive $250 million in new investments, including the addition of a new product. Earlier this year, Ford moved its medium-duty truck production to the plant after years of making the F-650 and F-750 in Mexico.

A majority of workers at Local 897, representing 900 workers at Buffalo Stamping, voted against the deal. About 61 percent of production workers and 64 percent of skilled trades voted against the deal.

So far, four plants — Local 228, 987, Local 228 of Sterling Axle and Local 898 of Rawsonville — have had a majority of workers vote against the deal. On Saturday, Local 588 of Chicago Stamping voted in favor of the deal, and on Friday, three plants, including Michigan Assembly, voted yes. Thursday results came from a couple of smaller plants and results were mixed.

The "no" votes from Sterling Axle and Rawsonville were somewhat expected; workers at those two parts plants — and at Woodhaven Stamping — are set to make a lower wage than their counterparts at other assembly plants.

Second-tier workers can make up to $19.86 an hour, while first-tier workers can make about $22 an hour. The Big Three traditionally have paid parts workers a lower wage because they compete with lower wage, non-union suppliers for the same products.

Voting is scheduled to continue through at least Wednesday. No plants are scheduled to release results Monday


UAW and GM extend
contract until Nov. 20

Melissa Burden,
Detroit News
November 15, 2015

UAW GM Vice President Cindy Estrada wrote in the letter: "We continue to meet with the company and will keep you updated as we work through the process. I realize this has been a long and difficult process, but it is important we address these important issues raised by the skilled trades. The strength of our union is our process and the solidarity we exercise with our brothers and sisters who work in the trades."

Estrada said Nov. 20 is the new deadline for ratification of the tentative agreement; it had been Friday.

UAW President Dennis Williams said in a statement Friday that based on the feedback from skilled trades members, "I have determined that further discussion with the company was needed. Such discussions are currently taking place."

The letter and the UAW's statement do not give specifics about discussions with the company or what changes could be made or how. A UAW spokesman said he couldn't comment on specific issues.

"General Motors is working with the UAW to address issues raised by skilled trades workers," GM said in a statement Friday. "We remain committed to obtaining an agreement that is good for employees and the business."

The union may be able to win concessions for skilled trades workers, or could clarify language in an addendum to the contract that would not require another vote.

The UAW on Nov. 6 announced that 55.4 percent of GM union members overall voted "yes" on the tentative agreement. But that could not immediately be ratified because 59.5 percent of skilled trades workers — who represent about 16 percent of GM's 52,600 hourly workers — voted "no."

Both skilled trades and production workers must ratify the deal separately for ratification. The UAW can overrule a rejection by skilled trades workers if the union's International Executive Board finds they voted against the deal for reasons that are not unique to skilled trades. The UAW has said the results of its review and continued talks regarding skilled trades worker issues cannot change aspects of the agreement that are common to everyone.

On Thursday, the UAW's International Executive Board appeared to be on a path to ratifying the agreement with GM, following meetings with skilled trades workers on why they voted "no." But the effort stalled later in the day when the union sought additional clarification from GM over skilled trades workers' concerns on contract language.

The review found workers had issues pertaining to local contract agreements. Workers also voiced skilled trades-specific issues such as reclassification of trades, numbers of apprentices and the absence of cost of living increases and buyouts.

Skilled trades workers also have told The Detroit News that they are concerned re-classifications could require them to do multiple jobs, "watering down" their trades and they may lose seniority or shift preferences .

Many skilled trades workers had fully expected the union to ratify the agreement despite their rejection. John Ilgenfritz, a skilled trades worker at GM's Wentzville Assembly Plant in Missouri, said he voted against the deal because GM wants to combine classifications of some skilled trades workers.

Ilgenfritz, 55, who specializes in tractor repair, said he doesn't want to see skilled trades become "jack of all trades." He also doesn't want GM to outsource more work, because people brought in don't have the same apprenticeships and training as GM workers have had.

"One of the biggest aspects is safety...," he said. "Someone is going to get hurt and it's going to be because of this."

The International Executive Board met Thursday, according to Estrada's Friday letter. "As a result of the IEB meeting, it has been determined, with my recommendation, that further discussion with the company was needed to clarify and address these issues," she wrote.

Sources told The Detroit News that in a call with UAW-GM local leaders early Thursday, Estrada indicated she would recommend the union's International Executive Board ratify the agreement, but would seek clarity on skilled trades issues. Later Thursday, after the International Executive Board met via a call, union officials held a second call with local union leaders that lasted about 11/2 hours; during that call the union indicated they would go back to GM for clarification on some concerns.

In 2011, 55.6 percent of skilled trades workers for Chrysler Group LLC (now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US) voted against a tentative agreement, but a majority of workers overall voted in favor. In 1973, the final vote on a national contract at Ford Motor Co. also resulted in a split between trade workers and production workers.

In both cases, the union's International Executive Board decided to affirm ratification of the contracts.

GM's deal with the union promises 1,300 new skilled trades placements, including at least 400 new apprentices. It promises retraining for skilled trades currently working in production; GM has said the first 200 apprentices would come in 2016. More than half of GM's 8,500 skilled trades workers are eligible to retire, but skilled trades workers are not eligible for a $60,000 early retirement incentive that GM will offer up to 4,000 eligible employees as part of the contract.

The tentative agreement, reached Oct. 25, includes an $8,000 signing bonus for all workers and $2,000 for temporary workers with at least 90 days with the company prior to the effective date of the agreement will be paid in the second pay period after ratification.

The deal includes the first hourly wage increase in nearly a decade for veteran workers who will receive two 3 percent wage increases in years one and three of the contract, and two 4 percent lump sum payments in years two and four. It also includes the gradual elimination of the pay gap between veteran workers and newer hires over eight years.

The new contract would move entry-level workers to the same health care plan as veteran workers in January and award workers an annual $1,000 performance bonus and an additional $500 bonus if quality targets are met. GM's also plans to invest $1.9 billion at 12 U.S. facilities through 2019, creating or retaining 3,300 jobs.


Majorities at Wayne, Romeo
and Woodhaven back Ford deal

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
Nov 14, 20115

Early voting results by United Auto Workers members at Ford Motor Co. are leaning in favor of a tentative labor deal.

A majority of voters at Ford's UAW Local 387, representing about 500 workers at the automaker's Woodhaven stamping and forge plants, voted Friday in favor of the deal. About 57 percent of production workers and 62 percent of skilled trades workers voted "yes," according to the union.

A majority of those casting ballots at Ford's UAW Local 400, which represents about 500 workers at the automaker's Romeo Engine plant, voted Friday in favor of the four-year pact. About 62 percent of production workers and 68 percent of skilled trades workers voted "yes," according to the union.

Earlier Friday, a majority of workers at UAW Local 900, which represents roughly 4,100 hourly employees at Ford Motor Co.'s Michigan Assembly Plant, voted Friday in favor of the tentative labor deal as voting continued into its second day. About 76 percent of production workers voted in favor of the deal, while 55 percent of skilled trades workers voted "yes." Local 900 covers Michigan Assembly where 81 percent of production and 83 percent of skilled trades voted "yes." It also covers a body stamping plant, where 57 percent of production and 39 percent of skilled trades voted "yes."

Michigan Assembly was the first major Ford plant to report results. Under the terms of the contract, Ford will invest $700 million in the Wayne plant as it replaces the Focus and C-Max – reportedly with the Ranger and Bronco.

On Thursday, a majority at UAW Local 931 – representing about 400 workers at Ford's new model product development center in Allen Park, which builds pre-production vehicles – voted to ratify the deal. About 81 percent of the plants production workers voted in favor of the deal, while 54 percent of skilled trades workers voted "yes."

Later Thursday night it was announced that UAW Local 898, representing Ford's Rawsonville plant, that production and skilled trades workers split on the deal. Roughly 58 percent of production workers voted against the deal, while 54 percent of skilled trades workers voted "yes."

So far, plants representing roughly 6,200 of Ford's 52,900 hourly workers have released results.

Plants voting on Friday include Sterling Axle, where a handful of union demonstrators gathered Thursday in front of their local union hall with signs to protest the tentative deal. Results were also expected Friday from Woodhaven and Romeo Engine.


Early UAW votes
mixed on Ford deal

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
November 13, 2015

Ford Motor Co.'s hourly workers began voting Thursday on a new, four-year agreement between the automaker at the UAW — even before the ratification process was finished at General Motors.

The first results came from Ford's new model product development center in Allen Park, which builds pre-production vehicles. Approximately 81 percent of the plants production workers voted in favor of the deal, while 54 percent of skilled trades workers voted "yes."

Later Thursday night, it was announced that roughly 700 workers at UAW Local 898, representing Ford's Rawsonville plant, voted against the deal, although reaction was split among production and skilled trades workers. Roughly 58 percent of production workers voted against the deal, while 54 percent of skilled trades workers voted "yes."

Voting takes place Friday at the Sterling Axle Plant, where a handful of union demonstrators gathered Thursday in front of their local union hall with signs to protest the tentative deal.

Seven members of Local 228 stood on the sidewalk off Mound Road in Sterling Heights with signs reading "Just Do It. Vote No." and "Injury to One is Injury to All! Vote No!" prior to a 10 a.m. informational meeting set to take place at the union hall.

"We want to get the message out that we're not happy," said Theresa Emanuele, a 54-year-old first-tier worker who has been at the plant since 1997. "The contract's supposed to be all about fairness. They're not doing right by everybody."

Under the terms of the contract, second-tier workers at Ford's three parts plants — Sterling Axle, Woodhaven Stamping and Rawsonville — would top out at $19.86 after four or more years. Current first-tier workers would receive a small raise and top out around $22 an hour while maintaining their current benefits and profit sharing. That's compared to Ford workers at other plants who would receive a top pay of about $29 an hour.

Workers at parts plants for Detroit automakers have traditionally earned lower wages because they compete directly with lower-wage nonunion suppliers, the union said.

"I don't feel like we're being treated fairly," said Ahmed Hashem, 41, from Troy with three years of experience at the plant. "It's not equal."

There was similar anger from about 3,400 hourly workers who work at parts plants under the General Motors Co. subsidiary GM Components Holdings LLC. Those workers also receive lower wages. A majority of GMCH workers voted against the pending deal with that automaker.

Under Fiat Chrysler's first tentative deal, which was rejected, Mopar parts workers would have topped out at $19.86 to about $22. But under the second deal, Mopar workers have a path to a roughly $29 an hour or more — just like their production counterparts.

The protesters who gathered Thursday said they'd be in favor of striking to get a better deal.

"Mopar got what they wanted (after rejecting the first deal)," Hashem said.

But the Ford workers at Sterling Axle understand the deal could likely be ratified even if they overwhelmingly vote no, since the three parts plants represent a small minority of Ford's total 52,900 workers.

Voting at Ford plants around the country runs through Wednesday.

Arcell Conerly III, a Macomb resident with 21 years of experience at Sterling Axle, said in reality different wage rates remain.

"Yes, it's a rich contract," he said. "But we gave up a lot during the recession and we weren't made whole in this contract."


Ratification voting on UAW-Ford deal begins Thursday

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
November 12, 2015

Ratification voting on a new tentative labor agreement begins Thursday for a handful of Ford Motor Co. plants across the country.

Facilities representing about 7,102 of Ford's roughly 52,900 UAW members at Chicago, Woodhaven, Rawsonville and Wayne are all scheduled to begin voting Thursday morning. Some votes will last through Friday.

All Ford UAW members will vote whether or not to ratify the new contract between now and as late as Nov. 18.

UAW leadership had already taken to social media to push for ratification.

Jeff Wright, president of UAW Local 249, representing Ford workers at its Kansas City Assembly Plant, posted a message on Facebook on Wednesday saying he believes it's a very good contract.

"There's a fine line between getting as much as you can without losing jobs," he wrote. "There were several plants that didn't have product and were in a similar situation to what we were in not long ago. We managed to secure new products and investments to save the jobs at those locations. At the same time we got raises for traditional members, bonuses for the retirees and a clear path to full scale for entry-level members.

"That's not to mention the same health care insurance — including dental and vision — for entry-level that traditional get."

Reaction to the deal has been mixed on social media, with a large number of workers at Ford's Woodhaven, Rawsonville and Sterling Heights plants voicing displeasure over lower wages. Much like Mopar workers at Fiat Chrysler and GMCH workers at General Motors, workers at these facilities will receive lower wages and only be able to top out around $19.86 an hour.

Sterling Axle workers planned a "peaceful demonstration" for 9 a.m. Thursday outside of UAW Local 228 in Sterling Heights, where informational meetings were to be held throughout the day before voting was scheduled to begin on Friday.

"Let's show International that we do not accept this inequality. ... We are one and what one gets we should all get," Theresa Emanuele, a 54-year-old worker at Sterling Axle wrote on Facebook. She's been at the plant since January 1997.

UAW Local 551, representing workers at Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant, posted on Facebook Wednesday that the first question-and-answer session between international representatives and members went well with "great questions, good passion and members being respectful with their questions."

UAW-Ford Vice President Jimmy Settles was supposed to address workers in Chicago at Wednesday's informational meetings, but had to cancel after he became "very ill," according to Local 551.

The Ford deal includes $10,000 in total signing bonuses: $8,500, plus a $1,500 advance in profit sharing. Temporary employees will receive $2,000. That's more than the $8,000 GM workers would receive and the $3,000-$4,000 FCA workers got.

And because contract negotiations have taken so long, Ford workers will receive their wage increases retroactive to Sept. 15.

The Ford pact also pledges $9 billion in U.S. plant investments, including $4 billion in assembly operations, that will create or retain 8,500 jobs. It promises no plant closings over the four years of the contract.

Overall, Ford's skilled trades workers would receive nearly $35,100 in new money over the four-year life of the deal — about $2,500 more than typical production workers. That's in addition to profit-sharing, which the union says was worth about $30,000 for a typical worker during the 2011-15 contract.

The union said negotiators also "resisted the company's attempt to further consolidate skilled trades classifications."

A majority of skilled trades workers at GM voted against the contract last week, in part because of consolidation of classifications. The union is currently deciding what to do next.


Ford-UAW deal richest of
the Big Three automakers

Michael Martinez,
Melissa Burden and
Michael Wayland,
Detroit News
November 10, 2015

The tentative labor pact between Ford Motor Co. and the UAW is the richest of Detroit's Big Three, and industry analysts say it avoids the hangups that stalled ratification of deals at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and General Motors Co.

The Dearborn automaker's tentative deal approved by the Ford National Council Monday in Detroit is now in the hands of 52,900 hourly employees, who will vote locally beginning this week.

It includes higher bonuses, richer buyout offers and more promised investments than labor pacts between the UAW and the other two Detroit automakers.

"I think they're trying to avoid the pitfalls that the other two have encountered," said Kristin Dziczek, director of the Industry & Labor Group at the Center for Automotive Research. "They don't want to have either case repeat."

Fiat Chrysler workers overwhelmingly turned down a first tentative agreement by 65 percent; and GM skilled trades workers last week voted down their agreement with the Detroit-based automaker, delaying final ratification.

UAW-FORD Contract Summary Nov 2015 - Click Here

"The big key is that (Ford) made a significant adjustment to the skilled trades," said Art Wheaton, a labor expert at Cornell University. "It sounds like they're trying to do a lot to get this thing ratified without a lot of the brouhaha."

Overall, Ford's skilled trades workers are expected to receive nearly $35,100 in new money over the four-year life of the deal — about $2,500 more than typical production workers. That's in addition to profit-sharing, which the union says was worth about $30,000 for a typical worker during the 2011-15 contract.

The union said negotiators also "resisted the company's attempt to further consolidate skilled trades classifications."

GM's skilled trades workers are expected to have some classifications consolidated, pending the contract's ratification. That's part of the reason why skilled trades workers late last week voted against GM's tentative deal, forcing the union this week to hold follow-up meetings to determine what to do next. UAW local presidents and shop chairs Tuesday are to wrap up two days of meetings with GM skilled trades workers, but the UAW has not yet set a meeting for its International Executive Board to determine its next course of action, a union spokesman said Monday.

Hikes retroactive to Sept. 15

Ford's deal includes a $10,000 total signing bonus: $8,500, plus a $1,500 advance in profit sharing. Temporary employees will receive $2,000. That's more than the $8,000 GM workers would receive and the $3,000-$4,000 FCA workers got.

And because contract negotiations have taken so long, Ford workers will receive their wage increases retroactive to Sept. 15.

The Ford pact also pledges $9 billion in U.S. plant investments, including $4 billion investments in assembly operations, that will create or retain 8,500 jobs. It promises no plant closings over the four years of the contract.

As part of its production plans, Ford said in the contract that the Taurus, Focus, C-Max and Fusion would continue "through their product life cycle," but not beyond that. Ford previously said it would end production of the Focus and C-Max in 2018 at its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, and The Detroit News first reported in August that the Ranger truck would be built there in 2018. The Taurus is made at Chicago Assembly, while the Fusion is made at Flat Rock and in Mexico.

The contract "highlighter" document says only that Michigan Assembly will receive a new vehicle in 2018, and another no later than 2020.

In addition, the contract revealed that Ford will stop producing the Lincoln MKC at its Louisville Assembly Plant once its product life cycle is complete to make room to build more Escapes. It's unclear where Ford intends to move MKC production.

The moratorium on plant closures is a big win for the Rawsonville, Sterling Axle and Woodhaven Stamping facilities, which were given new life with a new pay structure and in-sourcing at Woodhaven. Second-tier employees, who make less than veteran workers, will make $16.25-$19.86 at those plants, according to the contract.

"The significant new investments will strengthen job security and job growth over the long-term," UAW President Dennis Williams said in a statement. "We worked hard to secure an agreement that provides a clear path to traditional wages for all members and substantial raises for traditional members for the first time in 10 years. Our members will have the final word, and we look forward to the conversation in the days ahead."

'Hard-earned victory'

The Ford pact also includes $1,750 in additional annual bonuses and patterns wage increases for veteran workers after the deal ratified by FCA workers and the tentative agreement reached between GM and the UAW.

First-tier workers will receive two, 3 percent base wage increases and two 4 percent lump sum bonuses over the course of the contract. Second-tier workers will have an eight-year grow-in period to reach top wages. Ford's agreement also includes moving entry-level workers to traditional workers' health care plans, similar to the GM pact.

New hires would top out at $28 an hour, according to the contract.

Ford had a 20 percent cap on the number of second-tier workers its could employ. With roughly 29 percent of its workers at that level, Ford before negotiations moved about 800 second-tier workers to first-tier status. During negotiations, Ford added about 300 more, bringing the total number of workers bumped up to top pay to about 1,100.

Select eligible skilled trades workers and all other hourly employees will be a part of targeted early retirement buyouts. The programs will provide gross lump-sum incentive payments of $70,000. Timing was not announced, citing it will be up to the automaker and union.

"This tentative agreement delivers substantial wins for members. It's a hard-earned victory for our members, their families and our union," UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, said in a statement.

The deal does not change Ford's profit-sharing formula that pays hourly workers $1 for every $1 million in North America profits, but it removed the cap on the amount of company profits captured in the profit-sharing plan. Previously, workers would not have been paid on any profits above $12 billion.

Ford's 124,000 retirees will receive $1,000 over the contract's four years.

Like at FCA and GM, Ford workers will receive 64 holidays over the course of the four-year pact, including the restoration of Easter Monday. Also following the pattern set at GM & FCA, Ford workers will have the day off on the actual Veteran's Day holiday, not the long weekend normally reserved for the start of hunting season.

Ultimately, analysts believe the Ford deal will be ratified.

"You can't take any ratification for granted; no matter how much they get they're always going to want more," Wheaton said. "But I would think of the three, this one should be a little better off for ratification."

Ford product investment

■Chicago Assembly will receive $900 million investment:

Includes new Ford Explorer, new Police SUV Interceptor and a new vehicle to be named later, and Taurus will continue through current lifecycle

■Dearborn Truck will receive $250 million in investment:

F-150 will continue, new Ford Raptor will be added

■Flat Rock Assembly will receive $400 million investment:

Ford Mustang will continue, adds new Lincoln Continental and Fusion will continue through its lifecycle based on demand

■Kansas City Assembly will receive $200 million in investment:

Ford F-150 and Transit continue

■Kentucky Truck Assembly will receive $600 million in investment:

All-new Ford Super Duty truck and Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator continue with a major investment, in-sourcing of some work

■Louisville Assembly will receive $700 million investment:

All-new Ford Escape and current Lincoln MKC "will balance out" or move from the location, to allow capacity for Escape

■Michigan Assembly will receive $700 million in new investment:

New vehicle to be added in 2018, with additional product planned no later than 2020; Ford Focus and C-Max will move out

■Ohio Assembly to receive $250 million investment

Ford medium-duty truck continue, with new product to be announced


UAW deals with Ford,
GM enter critical week

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
November 9, 2015

Monday marks the beginning of a critical week for labor negotiations between the United Auto Workers and two of Detroit's Big Three automakers.

Labor leaders at Ford Motor Co. will convene at 10 a.m. Monday at the UAW-Ford National Programs Center on Jefferson in downtown Detroit to accept or reject a proposed tentative deal that the union and Dearborn automaker agreed to Friday afternoon.

Also this week, the union will meet with its skilled trades workers at General Motors Co. plants to determine why 59.5 percent of those workers voted "no" on the GM contract. In contrast, 58.3 percent of GM production workers voted "yes," and, overall, 55.4 percent of all workers voted to approve the contract. Ratification of the pending GM deal was delayed Friday because of the skilled trades rejection.

Under the UAW's constitution, both skilled trades and production workers must ratify the deal separately. Each group has parts of the contract tailored to their classifications.

After the reason for that rejection is determined through employee meetings, the UAW International Executive Board will decide whether to declare the contract ratified, or if they have to go back to the bargaining table on the skilled trades portion.

The UAW can overrule a rejection by skilled trades workers if the union finds they voted against it for reasons other than issues unique to skilled trades.

That happened in 2011, when a majority of skilled trades workers at Chrysler Group LLC (now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US) voted against a tentative contract, even though a majority of all workers favored it. The UAW International Executive Board determined that skilled trades workers voted the contract down primarily due to economic issues instead of issues unique to skilled trades workers. Then-UAW President Bob King and the board ratified the whole contract because skilled trades can veto a pact based only on their portion, not shared areas such as raises, vacation days and attendance policies.

There is no indication the National Ford Council will reject the proposed Ford deal; at this stage in negotiations for GM and Fiat Chrysler, their own national councils both unanimously voted to send the proposed pacts to rank-and-file for ratification voting. If that pattern holds true, ratification voting at Ford locals across the country will begin later this week.

The Ford deal is the richest among Detroit's Big Three.

It includes a $10,000 total signing bonus — $8,500 plus a $1,500 advance in profit sharing — and $9 billion in U.S. plant investments, according to two sources familiar with the deal who asked to remain anonymous because details have not been shared with UAW leaders.

The Ford pact also would include $1,750 in additional annual bonuses and would pattern wage increases for veteran workers after the deal ratified by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles workers and the tentative agreement reached between GM and the UAW, according to a source.

Ford's agreement also includes moving entry-level workers to traditional workers' health care plans, similar to the GM pact; $70,000 early retirement buyouts based on seniority; and does not change Ford's profit-sharing formula that pays hourly workers $1 for every $1 million in North America profits.


Canadian auto sector alarmed by concessions revealed in full TPP text

Globe & Mail
Steven Chase
Greg Keenan
November 8, 2015

Key players in Canada's vital auto sector say Justin Trudeau's government now faces a major decision: whether to seek changes to the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal – an agreement, the just-revealed text shows, that offers worse-than-expected terms for Canadian vehicle parts makers.

"They're going to have to take a look at this closely, see what has been negotiated and decide whether they want to pursue renegotiation of any element of the agreement," said Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association, which represents the Canadian units of the Detroit Three auto makers.

The full text of the wide-ranging Trans-Pacific Partnership accord was finally made public Thursday, one day after Mr. Trudeau's government took office, and the agreement – negotiated by the defeated Harper Conservatives – now must be ratified by 12 signatory nations from Chile to Japan.

Mr. Nantais's group, which employs close to 20,000 Canadians, is unhappy with how Canada consented to eliminate a tariff on imported Japanese vehicles far more rapidly than what was agreed to by the United States. Canada will do it in five years, while the U.S. will take as long as 30.

The 6,000-page pact includes more than two-dozen side deals Canada has cut with other members of the proposed 12-nation trade zone, including an agreement Ottawa struck with Washington in which border agents will share information about smuggling of counterfeit goods.

The biggest concern, however, remains the impact of the TPP on Canada's cornerstone auto sector.

The deal offers Canadian companies long-sought access to Japan's massive consumer market, but it would also eliminate tariffs on Japanese vehicles and make it easier for manufacturers to use offshore parts. It would be a boon for low-wage Asian suppliers of parts, but a challenge for Canadian firms.

Canada's auto parts makers, who employ 81,000, say the text of the agreement shows the local-content protections for vehicle components are significantly skimpier than the former Conservative government had advertised. Former prime minister Stephen Harper had said local-content requirements for important vehicle components would be between 40 per cent and 45 per cent.

But two key areas of Canada's auto-parts industry will receive less protection than expected. "We got worse terms on key parts than we were originally told," Flavio Volpe, president of Canada's Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association, said Thursday.

Engine parts and such body stampings as truck frames and metal roof panels will only be required to have TPP content of 35 per cent.

Metal stampings and engine parts are "critical pieces that Canada plays in and they have the lowest threshold," Mr. Volpe said. "It's a real exposure. Those were categories flagged by us to the government and they didn't protect them as a priority."

Mr. Volpe said 26 Canadian parts companies manufacture stamped metal components and 18 firms make engine parts.

The new federal Liberal government, though, is avoiding making any promises to renegotiate the TPP agreement, which would require asking 11 other countries to allow Canada to make changes to what it negotiated. Instead, International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland is urging Canadians to review the accord and send her their feedback.

"I really want to invite all Canadians – not everyone is going to read the full 6,000-page text – but please familiarize yourself with it," she said.

Ms. Freeland said the Liberals plan to consult Canadians on the deal before it's debated by Parliament.

Trade lawyer Lawrence Herman said trying to renegotiate the TPP could prompt other signatories to seek more concessions and could threaten the ability to once again close the pact. "It would be very difficult to reopen the deal ... for fear that it might cause a house of cards to come tumbling down."

The Ontario Liberal government on Thursday urged Ottawa to deliver auto-sector aid in the wake of the TPP deal, saying it's worried about the accord despite the market potential it offers.

"Ontario remains concerned about several key concessions regarding the auto sector, in particular the tariff reduction schedule and the rules of origin for autos and parts," Ontario Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid said in a statement.

He said he expects the Trudeau government to commit to support Ontario's auto sector – what he described as a "transition adjustment program" to ensure the industry's "long-term strength and competitiveness are not weakened by these [trade] concessions."

Canada's auto-parts makers association, and some senior parts industry executives, fear that the lower content threshold will make it difficult for them to compete against parts makers from TPP countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam, which have much lower labour and other costs.

Other senior industry officials believe the lower content threshold and the five-year elimination of Canada's 6.1-per-cent tariff on vehicles imported from Japan means Japan-based auto makers will gradually reduce their production here.

They fear Japanese auto makers will import metal stampings and engine parts from China and other low-cost countries, assemble those parts into vehicles in Japan and then ship vehicles to Canada duty-free.

U.S. President Barack Obama formally notified Congress on Thursday of his intent to sign the TPP, a move that triggers a 90-day period for review of the deal – which is expected to face a rough ride in Washington


UAW, Ford reach
deal; GM hits snag

Michael Martinez
and Melissa Burden,
The Detroit News
Nov 7, 2015

Even as ratification of General Motor Co.'s tentative agreement was delayed because of rejection from skilled trades workers Friday, Ford Motor Co. and the United Auto Workers reached their own tentative agreement that is the richest among the Detroit three automakers.

The proposed Ford deal includes a $10,000 total signing bonus – $8,500 plus $1,500 advance in profit sharing – and $9 billion in U.S. plant investments, according to two sources familiar with the deal who asked to remain anonymous because details have not been shared with UAW leaders.

The Ford pact also would include $1,750 in additional annual bonuses and would pattern wage increases for veteran workers after the deal ratified by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles workers and the tentative agreement reached between GM and the UAW, according to a source.

GM's contract has a $8,000 signing bonus for all workers and $2,000 for temporary workers; Fiat Chrysler's signing bonus was up to $4,000 for veteran workers and $3,000 for entry-level workers.

Ford's agreement also includes moving entry-level workers to traditional workers' health care plans, similar to the GM pact; would include $70,000 early retirement buyouts based on seniority; and does not change Ford's profit-sharing formula that pays hourly workers $1 for every $1 million in North America profits.

The Ford National Council will meet at 10 a.m. Monday to review the tentative agreement. If the council approves it, it will be taken to rank-and-file for ratification voting that likely would start later in the week.

GM-UAW results

The UAW late Friday released final voting results for the tentative GM pact that would cover 52,600 workers. The union said 58.3 percent of GM production workers voted for it, while 59.5 percent of skilled trades workers voted against it. Overall, 55.4 percent of GM hourly workers supported the deal.

But GM's contract has not been ratified. The UAW said in a statement Friday that it will hold meetings with skilled trades members at each plant to determine "what reason(s) they had for rejection of the tentative agreement. Once that inquiry has concluded, the UAW's International Executive Board shall meet to determine what appropriate steps shall be taken. The results of this process cannot change aspects of the agreement which are common to all members."

UAW President Dennis Williams and Vice President Cindy Estrada held a conference call Friday afternoon with UAW-GM local presidents and shop chair people, advising them to meet with skilled trades workers by early next week, according to two sources familiar with the call.

Both skilled trades and production workers must ratify the deal separately. Each group has parts of the contract tailored to their classifications.

The union needs to find out if skilled trades are voting against the pact because of issues related to their classification or whether it's for monetary issues, according to the sources. The union likely then will decide whether to strike; attempt to negotiate further with the company on specific skilled trades issues; or decide that skilled trades workers primarily voted down the contract due to economic issues instead of issues unique to skilled trades workers.

The UAW can overrule a rejection by skilled trades workers if the union finds they voted against it for reasons other than issues unique to skilled trades. That happened in 2011, when the majority of skilled trades workers at Chrysler Group LLC (now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US) voted against the deal. Then-UAW President Bob King and the board ratified the whole contract because skilled trades can veto a pact based only on their portion, not shared areas such as raises, vacation days and attendance policies.

A GM spokeswoman would not comment specifically on the skilled trades rejection.

"General Motors is pleased that a majority of UAW-represented employees recognize the benefits of the 2015 UAW-GM national agreement and voted in favor of it," the automaker said in a statement late Friday.

While the UAW has yet to ratify a deal with General Motors Co., it's not unprecedented to come to a tentative agreement with another automaker while talks go on elsewhere. In 2011, the union reached a tentative deal with Chrysler while Ford voting was taking place.

"It's not that unusual," said Art Schwartz, a former negotiator with GM and president of Labor and Economics Associates. "They've had a month and a half to see this circus go down. They've had an opportunity to bargain; it's not like they're sitting there playing poker."

Ford had been waiting for its turn at the negotiating table since the contract with the union expired Sept. 14 and was extended. Talks had ramped up in the past few days.

The UAW chose first to negotiate more intensely with Fiat Chrysler, and that first contract was struck down by a 2-to-1 margin. A second deal with Fiat Chrysler was ratified with a 77 percent majority. That deal included the eight-year wage progression to essentially eliminate the tier-two pay system. The union then moved onto negotiations with GM and the two sides came to a tentative agreement late Oct. 25, avoiding a possible strike.

Rich agreement

In a statement about the Ford pact, UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles said, "This agreement is significant for our members in that it creates a clear path for economic advancement for active members and rewards veteran employees for their sacrifices in recent years. It is one of the richest agreements in the history of UAW-Ford."

UAW President Dennis Williams said the proposed tentative deal will "solidify job security and create substantial economic gains for our hard-working members and their families."

Ford's average hourly labor cost is the highest of the Detroit three, at $57, according to the Center for Automotive Research. Of Ford's roughly 52,900 UAW members, about 29 percent are second-tier workers, more than GM's 21 percent, but far fewer than Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's 45 percent. Ford has had a 20 percent cap on its number of second-tier or entry level workers, and earlier this year transitioned about 800 to first-tier pay.

Frank Heintz, a 60-year-old skilled tradesman at Ford's Dearborn Truck Plant, said he expected a deal that would mirror GM's, although he's still undecided whether he would vote in favor of it.

"To me the biggest issue of all was the question of the lower tier; having multiple tiers undermines the whole idea of solidarity," he said. "My major reservation about this agreement is that there are temporary workers who may go for a long period of time without the full benefits."

He said he's hoping the deal would secure products and jobs in the United States.

"We have to make sure we don't ratify a contract that's going to empower the company to move vast numbers of jobs offshore," he said.

If ratified by UAW members of GM, the Detroit automaker's tentative agreement with the union includes the first hourly wage increase in nearly a decade for veteran workers, an $8,000 signing bonus for all workers and $2,000 for temporary workers, and the elimination of the pay gap between veteran workers and newer hires over eight years.

It also would move entry-level workers to the same health care plan as veteran workers in January, award workers an annual $1,000 performance bonus and an additional $500 bonus when quality targets are met, and offer up to 4,000 eligible employees a $60,000 early retirement bonus. GM's pact includes $1.9 billion of investment at 12 U.S. facilities, creating or retaining 3,300 jobs at a dozen plants through 2019.


UAW, Ford reach tentative
deal on labor contract

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
November 6, 2015

The United Auto Workers have reached a proposed tentative agreement on a new labor contract with Ford Motor Co., the union announced Friday afternoon.

The National Ford Council will meet at 10 a.m. Monday in Detroit to discuss the proposed tentative deal. If the council approves it, the deal will be taken to rank-and-file members for ratification voting.

The Dearborn automaker is the last of the Detroit automakers to negotiate with the union.

"We appreciate the solidarity from our members while we worked to secure the details of this proposed tentative agreement," UAW President Dennis Williams said. "We negotiated for a proposal that will solidify job security and create substantial economic gains for our hard-working members and their families."

While the UAW has yet to ratify a deal with General Motors Co., it's not completely unconventional to come to a tentative agreement with another automaker while talks go on elsewhere. In 2011, the union reached a tentative deal with Chrysler while Ford voting was taking place.

"It's not that unusual," said Art Schwartz, a former negotiator with GM and president of Labor and Economics Associates. "They've had a month and a half to see this circus go down. They've had an opportunity to bargain; it's not like they're sitting there playing poker."

Schwartz said the deal will likely resemble GM's agreement since the two automakers are similar in terms of profits.

"This agreement is significant for our members in that it creates a clear path for economic advancement for active members and rewards veteran employees for their sacrifices in recent years," said UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles. "It is one of the richest agreements in the history of UAW-Ford."

The union has issued strike deadlines for both GM and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles but the two automakers have been able to hammer out agreements minutes before both deadlines. But apparently Ford and the union were able to come to an agreement without the threat of a strike.

"Working with our UAW partners, we have reached a tentative agreement for the next four years for our employees and our business," said John Fleming, Ford executive vice president, global manufacturing and labor affairs. "The agreement, if ratified, will help lead the Ford Motor Company, our employees and our communities into the future."

Of Ford's roughly 52,900 UAW members, about 29 percent are second tier, more than GM but far fewer than FCA's 45 percent. Ford has had a 20 percent cap on its number of second tier workers, and earlier this year transitioned about 800 to first tier pay.

Workers are close to ratifying a deal with GM that includes raises for all workers, an $8,000 signing bonus and improvements to second tier worker healthcare.


UAW-GM deal could come
down to skilled trades workers

Michael Wayland,
The Detroit News
November 6, 2015

The tentative agreement between the United Auto Workers and General Motors Co. appears on track for ratification, but growing opposition from skilled trades workers could cause a contentious final tally.

Heading into the last day of voting Friday, several large local unions had reported skilled trades workers with the automaker had rejected the deal by margins as much as 85 percent at some plants. GM has about 8,500 skilled trades workers.

At least 11 large local union chapters, including Fairfax and Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plants, had a majority of skilled trades members vote against the deal. At least seven skilled trades groups narrowly supported the pact by no more than 60 percent, including those at Flint ad Orion assembly plants.

"They usually have a narrower margin than production," said Art Schwartz, president of the Labor and Economics Associates consultancy firm. "But having it go where they vote 'no' is unusual."

Of 11 local unions at which The Detroit News was able to collect vote totals for skilled trades workers, 61 percent of more than 2,670 ballots cast were against the agreement.

Overall, the union reported 14 plants still had to vote as of Thursday night. With about a third of total ballots remaining of the 52,600 workers, The News estimates a majority of ballots cast — production and skilled trades — are supportive of the deal.

Both skilled trades and production workers must ratify the deal separately for ratification. Each group has parts of the contract tailored to their classifications. However, the UAW can overrule a rejection by skilled trades workers if the union finds they voted against it for reasons other than issues unique to skilled trades. It overruled such rejections in 2011 and 1973 contracts.

In 2011, 55.6 percent of skilled trades workers for Chrysler Group LLC (now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US) voted against the deal. But in a combined tally, Chrysler's production and skilled trade workers voted 54.8 percent in favor of the contract — leaving the union's International Executive Board to evaluate the intent of the "no" ballots.

Union officials investigated the voting by talking to local union leaders and read Facebook postings and leaflets. The board determined the reasons skilled trade workers voted it down were predominantly economic more than issues unique to skilled trade workers.

Then-UAW President Bob King and the board ratified the entire contract because the skilled trades can only veto a deal based on their portion, not shared areas such as money, vacation days and attendance policies. "You want to protect the rights of the minority, but you can't let the minority overrule the majority," King said in 2011.

Kristin Dziczek, director of the Industry & Labor Group at the Center for Automotive Research, said, "I think we could see a replay of that if trades turn it down. It will go back to what is the intent of their vote."

In 1973, the final vote on a national contract at Ford Motor Co. also resulted in a split between trade workers, who opposed it, and production workers, who favored it. The executive board investigated and decided to affirm ratification.

The union declined Thursday to comment about skilled trades voting or if it would take the same action if skilled trade workers reject the deal, citing the ongoing voting. GM has declined to comment during ratification.

"If they choose to go the route that they did in 2011, they're going to have to come up with some justification for it," Schwartz said.

The four-year deal being voted on includes raises for all workers as well as $8,000 signing bonuses and a "progression" for entry-level workers to reach the $29 an hour or more of traditional workers.

Traditional skilled trades workers over the life of the deal would receive raises and bonuses of $31,850 without profit-sharing — $2,150 more than production workers. Skilled trades positions are historically higher-paying jobs such as tool-and-die makers, millwrights, toolmakers and plumbers and pipefitters.

Skilled trades workers have voiced concerns about the overall contract and about skilled trades issues in conversations with The Detroit News and on social media.

"I don't think anything has been resolved regarding wages and tier-two," said Alex Rodriguez, a skilled trades worker at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly. "And everything is still the same regarding the skilled trades. We didn't get anything more; we didn't get anything less."

Rodriguez, 50, a union member of 36 years, said he voted against the deal but expects it will pass.

Others have been displeased that retirement incentives of $60,000 are being offered to production workers, but not to skilled trades. Eligible skilled trades workers recently have been offered targeted buyouts and were offered $65,000 bonuses to retire as part of the 2011 agreement.

Some have been voiced displeasure with a new classification system that is expected to group several skilled trades classifications into one group, likely leading to additional training, certifications and work. They also have expressed worries about seniority, shift preferences and the loss of skilled trades and apprentice positions in the future.


Descending dollar alters Canadian
snowbirds' sunny retirement plans

The Globe and Mail
Nov. 05, 2015

Dominic Minervino, 61, has been spending a good part of the year in San Diego since 2009, when he took full advantage of the plunge in U.S. real estate prices and the high Canadian dollar to buy a three-bedroom home in the city with a spacious yard and a two-car garage.

"I love it down there," he says. "I can pick lemons straight from my garden and the weather is always beautiful."

The Toronto man admits, though, that with the Canadian dollar on a downward spiral, this year he'll be watching his pennies. "Have I changed my lifestyle? No," says Mr. Minervino. "Am I conscious of it? Absolutely. If I'm buying a pair of pants that are $40 (U.S.) or $50, I'm calculating in my mind that I'm actually paying another $15 (Canadian) or so."

He's not alone. You can bet snowbirds across the country will be watching their spending south of the border this year, says Douglas Gray, author of The Canadian Snowbird Guide and proprietor of the website snowbird.ca. "But I don't expect many will stop going altogether," he says. "It's too important to their quality of life."

His assessment is backed up by a Toronto-Dominion Bank report on snowbirds and the loonie. The report, released last year, estimates 500,000 Canadians spend "significant periods of time in the United States." But while TD predicts a decline in visits to the U.S. because of the lower loonie, it suggests that will be concentrated among short-term visitors.

Canadian snowbirds, TD points out, have been accumulating real estate assets south of the border over the past decade – a trend fuelled by the high Canadian dollar and a drop in property values in the U.S. "Renting is likely to become a more alluring option," in today's environment, the TD report notes, but "existing snowbirds are unlikely to unload their U.S. properties in markets where home values continue to appreciate."

As Mr. Gray points out, the U.S. still enjoys some advantages over Canada when it comes to the cost of living. "Almost everything is cheaper in the U.S., from groceries to rent," he says. "The lower cost of living offsets the drop in the Canadian dollar somewhat."

Mr. Minervino uses a number of techniques to minimize the pain of the lower Canadian dollar. He has U.S.-dollar bank accounts both in Canada and the U.S. "I buy U.S. dollars in bulk," he says. "Rather than going to the bank and converting a couple of thousand dollars, I use a foreign exchange site. I call in and I negotiate a deal for $20,000 (U.S.) or $30,000 at a time. You get a discounted rate because you're buying so much." Although the gap might be only 1 per cent or so, it makes a difference on "that kind of money."

Mr. Minervino watches the currency markets and tries to time purchases so that he pays the least for his U.S. currency. Last summer, he purchased "a bunch" at about seven cents on the U.S. dollar. "That was a good move," he says. "This year is going to be a bit tougher." Mr. Minervino expects to run out of his U.S. stash by the beginning of January, at which point "I'll probably just buy enough to get me through to the spring."

Mr. Minervino also generates U.S.-dollar income, mainly from stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that are U.S. based. "I have an account with RBC," he explains. "You can buy stocks in Canadian or American dollars." If you buy in Canadian dollars, he points out, the returns are hedged and they accumulate in Canadian dollars. But if you buy with U.S. dollars you can ask for the returns to accumulate in U.S. dollars.

The upshot: "My portfolio is growing in U.S. dollars," says Mr. Minervino. "Suppose I want to refurnish my house down there and it's going to cost me $15,000 to $20,000 on the low end. I can always go out and sell a bunch of shares of Apple and it will go into my U.S. dollar account in Canada and from there to my U.S. account."

Like Mr. Minervino, most snowbirds choose to set up a separate U.S.-dollar bank account in their winter haven, says Mr. Gray, with a bank card for withdrawing funds and a credit card in U.S. dollars. "You can obtain U.S. cheques for your local U.S account," he says. "Most banks and credit unions do not charge any extra money for U.S. cheque clearing, especially if you are over 55. But you should verify this in advance."

In spite of his preparations, Mr. Minervino says he'll be avoiding major purchases south of the border this year. "Every year I tend to take on a major project in my San Diego home," he says. "Last year I redid my garage and the year before I did all the floors. This year I haven't got anything planned, but even if I did, I would be thinking twice about it. If I was going to spend $10,000 on the house, it would actually cost me about $13,000. I'm inclined to delay it or at least shop around a little more."


Auto sales on track
for best year ever

Red-hot demand for trucks and SUVs continues to drive sales. The top three vehicles in October were all pickups, led by Ford Motor Co.’s venerable F-Series. Industry truck sales rose 7.3 percent, while SUV and crossover sales soared 28.4 percent.

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
Nov 4, 2015

The best October auto sales since 2001 has the industry on pace to sell the most new cars and trucks ever in a single year and break the all-time record of 17.41 million vehicles set in 2000.

Automakers sold 1.46 million new cars and trucks in October, the highest total for the month in 14 years — and up 13.6 percent compared to the same month a year ago, according to Autodata Corp.

The strong numbers should continue through the end of the year as automakers offer more holiday and year-end incentives. Most car companies and industry analysts now predict 2015 full-year sales to reach anywhere between 17.4 million and 17.8 million vehicles.

"We've officially passed recovery mode and are now into record new-car sales," said Karl Brauer, senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book. "All the key factors, including pent-up demand, low interest rates, easy credit and cheap gas were in place for unprecedented October sales."

Red-hot demand for trucks and SUVs continues to drive sales. The top three vehicles in October were all pickups, led by Ford Motor Co.'s venerable F-Series. Industry truck sales rose 7.3 percent, while SUV and crossover sales soared 28.4 percent.

"Consumers' demand for light trucks, whether they be SUVs, vans or pickups, seems almost insatiable," said Tom Libby, manager, loyalty solutions and industry analysis for IHS Automotive.

A number of automakers, including Detroit's three automakers, reported double-digit monthly gains. General Motors Co. had a 15.9 percent sales gain compared to October 2014; Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. was up 14.7 percent; Ford was up 13.4 percent.

"We are seeing October 2015 sales set new records, many breaking records set in October 2001 — but what a far different time," said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with AutoTrader.com.

The auto industry in 2001 was reeling; the economy was suffering and was further crippled by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Zero-percent financing helped keep the industry rolling.

"Today, the country, the economy and the auto industry are in a far better place," Krebs said.

Even Volkswagen AG, mired in an emissions testing scandal that has led to the stop-sale of its popular diesel cars, saw a sales gain of 0.24 percent last month.

Tesla Motors Inc. sold 2,200 cars in October, up 33.3 percent from a year ago. The sales numbers came out the same day the automaker reported losses of 58 cents per share, wider than the 56-cent average of analysts' projections. Tesla will need to deliver 16,820 cars this quarter to reach the low end of its full-year target of 50,000 to 52,000 vehicles. Tesla says it plans to deliver 17,000 to 19,000 vehicles in the fourth quarter.

Ford in October posted record-average transaction prices, up $1,800 to $34,600 per vehicle.

The Dearborn automaker benefited from strong demand for its new vehicles. The recently refreshed Explorer was up 29.7 percent; sales of the new Edge rose 38.6 percent; and sales of the Mustang were up 121.2 percent. In total, Ford's car sales rose 15.7 percent, its SUV sales rose 10.8 percent and its truck sales rose 13.8 percent.

Sales of Ford's Lincoln luxury brand fell 4.5 percent. The new MKX and slow-selling MKT were the only Lincoln nameplates to post sales gains.

Starting Tuesday, Ford began its Friends & Neighbors two-month incentive program, which will offer significant discounts on most models, excluding Lincoln. The automaker said it doesn't expect the program to increase its incentive spending.

"We're in a strong market, but it's a very competitive market… we anticipate this holiday season we'll see considerable ad spending," Mark LaNeve, Ford's head of sales, said. "We wanted to stand out with very simple compelling offers we know customers appreciate."

GM's Chevrolet brand posted its best October sales since 2004. Chevy sales rose 17.6 percent, while GMC rose 18 percent and Cadillac 13 percent. Buick posted a 0.2 percent sales decrease.

The Chevrolet Silverado and Colorado had their best October sales since 2006, and the Malibu had its best October since 1996.

GM's average transaction prices were $34,600, down about $130 year over year.

Fiat Chrysler continued its streak of year-over-year sales gains, pushing the number to 67 consecutive months with its best October since 2001. "Last month's sales strength continued to be broad based for the company with eight FCA vehicles setting October sales records across three of our brands," Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales, said in a statement.

The automaker was once again driven by its Jeep brand, which posted a 33 percent sales increase. Four Jeeps set sales records, including the Patriot, whose 56 percent increase was the largest sales gain of any FCA US vehicle during the month.



NDP lost election by
veering to the right

Sid Ryan, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour
Postmedia Network
November 3, 2015

There were many factors that played into Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's unexpected majority government.

But in the opinion of this lifelong union activist and former NDP candidate, neither the much-maligned niqab, nor cynical strategic voting, played as much of a role in the NDP reversal of fortune as the decision to abandon its social democratic roots.

When the NDP holds a post mortem on the 2015 federal election, it can mark Tom Mulcair's Aug. 25 visit to a small factory in London, Ontario as the day its promising lead in the polls took a nose-dive.

On that fateful day, Mulcair shocked his political base by announcing the NDP would deliver four years of balanced budgets, despite record low borrowing rates and growing evidence that Canada was slipping into another recession.

The Liberals pounced on this announcement, accusing the NDP of adopting a "Stephen Harper budget" that would inevitably lead to "severe austerity" measures.

Trudeau countered with an ambitious proposal to run an annual deficit of under $10 billion over three years to finance a multi-billion dollar public infrastructure investment program that would create thousands of jobs.

By thumbing his nose at the neo-liberal fiscal orthodoxy that has gripped this nation for two decades, Trudeau boxed the NDP into the same fiscal corner as the most unpopular prime minister in living memory.

Trudeau outflanked Mulcair just as Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne had done in last year's Ontario election, when she masqueraded as more left than Andrea Horwath's NDP.

Fool me once, as the saying goes.

It was a masterful play that came at a time when the polls were reporting that 70% of Canadians were looking for change and many were considering the NDP.

This NDP budgetary misstep also revealed an inherent contradiction in Mulcair's plan that undermined other popular planks in the NDP platform.
In particular, it gave rise to closer inspection of the crown jewel of the NDP platform – a $15-per-day universal childcare program.

What became apparent was that the protracted eight-year roll out for these one million childcare spaces was a direct result of Mulcair's self-imposed fiscal constraints and his reticence to increase taxes on the wealthy.

In essence, the message to voters was one of fiscal conservatism over progressive public policy.

Suddenly, the Liberals, not the NDP, were able to present themselves as the agents of "real change".

Many NDP members are asking themselves why their party tried to win government by accepting the campaign strategy of its opponents, rather than seeking to redefine politics.

Early in the marathon election campaign, Conservative-weary voters proved they were ready for some risk taking.

Early polls rewarded the NDP for adopting a principled opposition to Bill C51, committing to a $15 federal minimum wage and calling for the abolition of the Senate.

It was not the time to quit while they were ahead, or to be coy about their core values as social democrats, not when most voters were looking for bold change.

South of the border, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is making headlines and inspiring a generation with a bold critique of capitalism.

Across the pond, the moribund U.K. Labour Party has been reinvigorated with the election of Jeremy Corbyn and his unapologetic advocacy for a "return to the welfare state."

New Democrats would be wise to wrap themselves in their social democratic values, rather than going to such great pains to disguise them.

This election served as a stark reminder that the NDP path to electoral success is inextricably tied to the courage of the party's convictions.

— Sid Ryan is president of the Ontario Federation of Labour


UAW members in Fairfax,
Lansing split on GM contract

Melissa Burden,
The Detroit News
November 2, 2015

Thousands of General Motors Co. hourly workers will vote Monday on a tentative agreement, which financially is richer than the company's 2011 contract and what Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV employees ratified, but so far has received mixed support from UAW members at two GM assembly plants.

UAW hourly employees at GM's first two assembly plants to vote on a new tentative agreement split their votes: Lansing Grand River Assembly favored it, but Fairfax Assembly in Kansas City, Kansas voted it down by a 2-1 margin.

GM Flint Assembly, Arlington Assembly, Orion Assembly and Toledo Transmission employees are among UAW members slated to vote on the deal Monday. Still other locals will vote later in the week.

The tentative agreement, if ratified nationally, would provide 52,600 members a larger bonus from the 2011 contract, raises and would move entry-level workers to the same health care plan as veteran workers.

As was the case with the first failed Fiat Chrysler pact, some GM employees are voicing their concerns about the contract on social media and are encouraging people to vote "no." Some are upset over a different pay scale at four GM Components Holdings plants and others appear to think veteran GM and skilled trades workers should have gotten more in the tentative deal.

April Spiess, a tier-one or veteran worker at Lansing Grand River, said she voted no on the contract because it didn't change vacation policy; she wanted to see vacation options to use whenever she wants, not when during shutdown periods. But Spiess said she is happy the vote passed at her plant.

"It was nice to see raises back," said Spiess, 40, of Laingsburg, who has worked for GM for 15 years. "That's a good thing."

The UAW's tentative agreement for GM hourly workers includes an $8,000 signing bonus for all workers and $2,000 for temporary workers; pay raises for veteran workers consisting of two 3 percent increases in the first and third years of the contract and two 4 percent lump-sum payments in years two and four. The deal includes the gradual elimination of the pay gap between veteran workers and new hires, allowing entry-level, or two-tier workers to reach a top wage of about $29 an hour in eight years.

It also includes annual performance bonuses of $1,000 and an additional $500 bonus when quality metrics are reached. If ratified, GM will offer up to 4,000 eligible employees a $60,000 early retirement incentive and will invest $1.9 billion in U.S. facilities, creating or retaining 3,300 jobs at 12 plants.

Industry analysts last week told The Detroit News they thought the contract, while costly to GM, was good for GM workers and they expected it to pass. Some workers on social media say they will support the deal given the bonuses and pay increases. The union also has been posting information about the economic gains in the contract on Facebook pages.

Todd McDaniel, chairman of the UAW-GM National negotiating committee and chair of UAW Local 362 representing Bay City Powertrain employees, posted on a Facebook page a message trying to quell some people who have said they will vote "no" to get a better deal.

"I firmly believe that this agreement has all of the total cash value that we will get without a strike," McDaniel wrote. "I also believe that even with a strike if we gain anything, and I am very doubtful of that, it will come at great cost."

McDaniel, in the post, mentioned that a strike could last weeks or months and likely lacks public support and that workers may not get any job guarantees after a strike.

"Our job as a bargaining committee is to bring our members the best possible agreement while maintaining job security, and that is exactly what this contract offers. It provides significant gains for ALL MEMBERS," he wrote. "I ask that you look at the whole package, not just what you didn't get but the package as a whole. Wages, bonuses, holidays, vacation, profit sharing, transfer right, seniority agreements and, above all, Job Security."

At Fairfax Assembly, home of the Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse, 37 percent of production workers voted "yes" and 63 percent voted "no" on the national agreement. The result among skilled trades workers was similar, with 34 percent voting "yes" and 66 percent voting "no," according to results posted on UAW Local 31's Facebook page. The plant employs about 3,230 hourly workers.

UAW Local 31 leaders could not be reached for comment over the weekend.

Mike Green, UAW Local 652 president, said Saturday that 57 percent of hourly members at Lansing Grand River voted "yes" on the deal. The Lansing Grand River plant has about 1,570 employees.

"The members have spoken," Green said. "They passed it."

A handout reviewed by The News of UAW Local 652 results shows 58 percent of production employees voted "yes," while 52 percent of skilled trades voted "no." The local tallied 1,098 votes.

Lansing Grand River members who build the Cadillac ATS, CTS and Chevrolet Camaro voted Friday on the pact, just two days after the UAW National GM Council approved the tentative agreement Wednesday. Hourly employees at the Fairfax plant voted on the tentative agreement Friday into Saturday morning.

The union and GM approved the tentative agreement late Oct.25, averting a possible strike.

More informational meetings are slated at some local unions into the week, with most voting appearing to wrap up by Friday.

Fiat Chrysler UAW members overwhelmingly ratified a deal — a second agreement after the first tentative agreement was voted down by a 2-to-1 margin — with the union that was announced Oct. 22. In the second vote, 77 percent of production workers voted "yes;" skilled trades supported it by 72 percent; and salaried bargaining supported it at 87 percent.

The union may wait to begin final negotiations with Ford Motor Co. on a tentative agreement until after GM's voting is completed. The contract expired Sept. 14 and Ford is working under an extension.


Ford: We're not canceling
Mexican plans despite Trump

David Shepardson,
Detroit News
Washington Bureau
October 31, 2015

Washington — Ford Motor Co. said it has not changed its plans to invest in Mexico — despite Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump comments suggesting the Dearborn automaker was canceling its expansion plans.

Trump has spent six months flogging the Dearborn automaker for expanding in Mexico in nearly every speech — and as recently as in a "Today" show roundtable with voters in New Hampshire in Monday, when he said he should get "credit" for erroneously saying he has convinced Ford to cancel a planned new plant in Mexico and open one in the U.S.

"Mexico took a Ford plant. I've been very tough on the Ford. ... I heard last night that Ford is moving back to the United States — they may not do that deal. I get credit for that — I should get credit for that," Trump said in a live interview. "I brought (Ford's Mexican expansion plan) up in so many speeches and frankly I think I embarrassed them. But Ford now is going to build a big massive plant in the United States — and every single person, even my harshest critics gave me credit for that. I'm going to do that times 1,000."

Ford, in fact, has no plans to build a new plant in the United States. Ford last opened a new U.S. plant — the Dearborn Truck Plant — in 2004.

It is possible that Ford could announce moving some work back from Mexico as part of the United Auto Workers contract talks, but a spokeswoman confirmed Monday the automaker is not canceling its significant new investments in Mexico -— or building any new U.S. plants.

"Ford has not spoken with Mr. Trump, nor have we made any changes to our plans," according to a Ford statement.

"We decided to move the F-650 and F-750 medium-duty trucks to Ohio Assembly in 2011, long before any candidates announced their intention to run for U.S. president. We are proud that Ford has invested $10.2 billion in our U.S. plants since 2011 and hired nearly 25,000 U.S. employees. Overall, more than 80 percent of our North American investment annually is in the U.S., and 97 percent of our North American engineering is conducted in the U.S."

Ohio Gov. John Kasich blasted Trump saying "our country needs real leadership and not empty, false rhetoric," noting that under his leadership Ford opted to move work from Mexico to Ohio — in 2011.

"That's how things really get done. Hard work and teamwork brings results for the people," Kasich said.

Trump — who is leading the Republican presidential field in some polls — cited a factually incorrect story from an obscure blog called "Printly" on Sunday and reiterated it today. It's not clear whose behind the site that only went up a few months ago.

"Do you think I will get credit for keeping Ford in U.S. Who cares, my supporters know the truth. Think what can be done as president," Trump wrote in one tweet that was retweeted and favorited 6,000 times.

"Word is that Ford Motor, because of my constant badgering at packed events, is going to cancel their deal to go to Mexico and stay in U.S.," Trump wrote in another tweet.

Trump's statements have at times misstated the purpose of the investment — he has suggested that Ford is building a single new $2.5 billion plant. In fact, Ford is building an engine and a transmission plant and expanding another parts plant.

Trump also hasn't mentioned that Ford is not moving to Mexico and has had operations in Mexico for 90 years. Ford currently has 11,300 employees in Mexico, where it builds the Ford Fiesta, Fusion and Lincoln MKZ as well as the hybrid versions of both are manufactured in Mexico. Ford also has an Engineering Center in Mexico, which employs more than 1,100 engineers who support global projects.

Ford said in April it would invest $2.5 billion to build new engine and transmission plants in two separate Mexican states — Chihuahua and Guanajuato — and would create 3,800 jobs with a new engine plant in Chihuahua, expansion of Ford's I-4 and diesel engine lines in Chihuahua and a new transmission plant — Ford's first in Mexico — in Guanajuato.

Ford has repeatedly said it is not closing any U.S. plants as a result of its Mexican expansion. In 2011, the automaker said it was shifting production of heavy trucks — the F-650 and F-750 — from Mexico to a factory in Ohio — and touted the launch of that production in August.

"Ford is making a significant commitment to our business in Mexico with investment in two new facilities, while aiming to make our vehicles even more fuel-efficient with a new generation of engines and transmissions our team in Mexico will build," said Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of the Americas, in April. "These new engines and transmissions will help deliver even better driving experiences and fuel economy gains for customers around the world."

The new engine facility is being built within Ford's Chihuahua Engine Plant, where the company will produce a new gasoline-powered engine. This $1.1 billion investment and 1,300 new jobs will allow Ford to export engines to the U.S., Canada, South America and elsewhere.

An additional $200 million dollar investment and 500 more new jobs is part of the expansion of Ford's current I-4 and Diesel engines production in Chihuahua. That will make the Ford Engine Plant in Chihuahua the biggest engine plant in Mexico.

In addition, Ford is building a new $1.2 billion transmission plant within the premises of transmission supplier and longtime partner Getrag, adding 2,000 new jobs.

In August, Trump told The Detroit News that Ford CEO Mark Fields wrote to him explaining the automaker's planned $2.5 billion investment in Mexico after Trump criticized Ford in June. Trump suggested one way to stop automakers' expansion to Mexico is by moving some production out of Michigan to lower-wage states.

"I don't like what's happening," Trump told The News in August. "We're losing our jobs. We're losing our wealth. We're losing our country ... Why can't we do it in this country? It's an incredible thing that we're not allowed to make our product."

Trump has repeatedly said that if elected, he would not allow Ford to open a new plant in Mexico. At his campaign announcement speech in New York in June, Trump said he would call Fields to explain the "bad news."

"Let me give you the bad news: Every car, every truck and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we're going to charge you a 35 percent tax," Trump said. "They are going to take away thousands of jobs."

It isn't clear how Trump could legally single out one automaker for punitive taxes — and the move would violate current U.S. free trade agreements.

In July, Ford said it would end small car production at its Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne. It didn't say where it would locate production, but some analysts have suggested the work will move to Mexico. The automaker has insisted it has no plans to close the Wayne plant and will add new production.

General Motors Co. in December announced a $5 billion investment in Mexico over six years. GM has four complexes in Mexico with 14 manufacturing plants comprising assembly, engine, transmission, stamping and foundry work which employs about 15,000 people.

In addition to the Ford and GM expansions, BMW AG, Volkswagen AG and its Audi unit, Nissan Motor Co., Kia Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV are among the automakers that have built or announced new plants or plant expansions.

Many automakers have decided they can't build small cars profitably in the U.S. Auto workers in Mexico make as little as $9 an hour. In addition, Mexico has dozens of free trade agreements around the world, free or nearly free land on which to build, and fewer regulatory hurdles.


Ford issues three new recalls
covering 131,000 vehicles

David Shepardson,
Detroit News
Washington Bureau
October 30, 2015

Washington — Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday it is recalling about 131,000 vehicles in three new vehicles, including some older SUVs, for fire risks.

The Dearborn automaker is recalling 129,000 2009-10 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX SUVs in states that use road salt for rust problems under the reinforcement brackets where the fuel tank is mounted to the vehicle.

"This condition might result in a fuel odor, fuel leak or a check engine light. A fuel leak in the presence of an ignition source could result in a fire," Ford said, adding it is not aware of any accidents, injuries or fires related to the recall.

The recall includes vehicles sold or currently registered in Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin, and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Quebec.

Dealers will inspect the fuel tank and either repair or replace it.

Ford also is recalling 1,900 2016 Ford Mustang vehicles in North America after some restraint parts could have been damaged during shipping from the supplier prior to installation in the vehicle. If damaged during shipping, the affected restraint parts might not conform to the requirements for seat belt assembly performance or rules on child restraint anchor systems.

Ford is not aware of any accidents or injuries related to this issue. Dealers will replace front and rear seat belt assemblies, rear seat buckle assemblies and child tethers.

Ford is also recalling 72 2016 Ford E-Series cutaway and chassis cab vehicles in North America for a possible issue with the trailer brake controller. Ford said the trailer brakes do not engage when the driver presses the brake pedal. While towing a trailer, drivers can manually apply the trailer brakes. This condition could result in extended braking distance.

Ford is not aware of any accidents related to the recall. Dealers will update the powertrain control module software.


UAW-GM deal richer than FCA;
$1.9B in new investments

Melissa Burden,
Michael Wayland and
Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
October 29, 2015

The United Auto Workers' tentative agreement with a resurgent General Motors Co. is a more profitable deal for workers than the 2011 pact and includes the first hourly wage increase in nearly a decade for some; an $8,000 signing bonus for all workers and $2,000 for temporary workers; and gradual elimination of the pay gap between veteran workers and newer hires.

It also would move entry-level workers to the same health care plan as veteran workers in January, award each worker an annual $1,000 performance bonus and an additional $500 bonus when quality targets are met and offer 4,000 eligible employees a $60,000 early retirement bonus.

The four-year deal approved Wednesday by the UAW National GM Council must now be ratified by 52,600 rank-and-file members over the next week or so.

The deal includes GM's promise to invest $1.9 billion in its U.S. facilities, creating or retaining 3,300 jobs at 12 plants through 2018.

The pact includes many sweeteners on top of what the union reached with Fiat Chrysler and follows patterns set by Fiat Chrysler in a contract ratified last week. UAW President Dennis Williams had said previously he would push for a richer deal with GM and Ford, because both are much more profitable than Fiat Chrysler. Ford has yet to ink a deal with the UAW.

"We believe this agreement gives UAW members significant raises and stronger benefits and will strengthen members and their families, in our communities and our union," Williams told reporters Wednesday night.

"By standing strong and united together, the bargaining committee secured better pay, a clear path to the traditional wages for all current members and commitments to keeping jobs and products here."

Workers have been hammering to recoup concessions taken during the recession and bankruptcy days, especially as GM has turned record profits since emerging as a new company in 2009.

"There were multiple things we were able to do because of GM's wealth," Williams said.

GM's deal, as Fiat Chrysler's does, includes an eight-year progression to top wages for entry-level workers — so-called Tier 2 employees — to reach a top wage of about $29 an hour; two 3 percent wage increases and two 4 percent percent lump-sum payments for veteran production workers.

Tier-two workers will move to the health care plan that traditional veteran hourly workers receive, including full dental and vision coverage. Dan Reyes, president of UAW Local 599, which represents about 465 members at GM's Flint Engine Plant, called the move "huge."

"It makes it easier to survive," he said. "It's just like getting a pay raise; you're not pouring extra money into health care costs."

The pact also will allow hundreds of GM workers who shifted to other plants during the downturn and around the time of bankruptcy to transfer back to their home plants if there are openings, regardless of the tier-structure, UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada said.

"Considering the times we're in, it's a great lucrative agreement," said Rich LeTourneau, shop chairman with UAW Local 2209, which represents workers at Fort Wayne Assembly in Indiana and thinks members will support it. "I think they did a pretty good job."

The union and GM approved the tentative agreement late Sunday, averting a possible strike.

Regional informational meetings are set for Thursday and Friday. UAW locals will then hold information meetings and GM ratification votes will happen after that. Williams did not answer a question from reporters about whether voting would be wrapped up in a week.

John Rice, a GM worker for nearly 31 years, said Wednesday he likes the deal but was hoping for additional base wage increases for veteran workers, many of whom haven't had an increase in 10 years.

"I think we should have at least gotten a 3 percent raise across the board instead of the bonuses in the second and fourth years," said the 51-year-old Bowling Green Assembly worker. "A raise is always better than a bonus, and they've been doing bonuses for the past two contracts."

Temporary workers also will receive wage hikes and a health care plan. Retirees will get a $500 gift card. As part of the deal, GM will officially close its Janesville Assembly Plant in Wisconsin. The plant stopped producing vehicles at the end of 2008 and has been on standby since.

Many UAW workers in Lansing earlier this week told The Detroit News that they would be satisfied with a deal similar to Fiat Chrysler's.

"Chrysler got a good deal, so I guess I'm happy because we'll probably get a little better than them," said Gail Henigan, 56, an entry-level worker. "I'm excited. It's definitely bringing the tier twos up to tier ones … if it's the same."

Arthur R. Schwartz, president of Ann Arbor-based consultancy firm Labor and Economics Associates, expects the deal with GM to be ratified.

"This is a better deal at GM than Fiat Chrysler," he said. "I will be shocked if this doesn't get ratified."

Schwartz, a longtime GM negotiator, called the pact an "expensive" deal for the company. He added many of the gains outside of the wage hikes don't add to GM's fixed costs.

"It's cash, and right now the company has cash," he said. "We're at the top of the cycle and the company is doing well. And the union feels it needs to be awarded for past behavior, and they will."

The signing bonus will cost GM an estimated $420 million.

GM declined to comment Wednesday. In a statement issued when the tentative agreement was reached, it said the deal was good for employees and the company. The company had been seeking ways to help lower its overall hourly labor cost during the contract.

"Working with our UAW partners, we developed constructive solutions that benefit employees and provide flexibility for the company to respond to the needs of the marketplace," said Cathy Clegg, GM North America manufacturing and labor relations vice president, in a statement.

The 2011 contract between the UAW and GM included a $5,000 signing bonus. GM hourly workers under the 2011 agreement received bonuses and profit sharing totaling $39,250 each. The company's profit-sharing formula, which pays hourly workers $1 for every $1 million in pre-tax North America profits, will stay the same. Through September, GM North America has posted pre-tax profits of nearly $8.3 billion.

The Detroit-based automaker this year announced investments of $5.4 billion over three years at U.S. facilities, creating 650 new jobs. It also announced a $1 billion investment at the Warren Tech Center. Last week, the carmaker announced it would add a second shift and more than 1,200 jobs early next year at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, and that it plans in January to cut a shift at the Orion Assembly Plant because of slow sales of the Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano.

During the 2011 UAW-GM agreement, the automaker announced U.S. plant investments of $12.4 billion. Those investments added about 6,250 jobs and secured positions for 20,700 employees.

Williams said he would meet with UAW-Ford Vice President Jimmy Settles on Thursday to discuss the best way to approach Ford's deal. The union's contracts with all three automakers expired Sept. 14.

Tentative GM Agreement Brochure


Brampton council votes
down Light Rail Transit plan

Brampton Guardian
By Peter Criscione
October 28, 2015

Cheers, hollers and angry outbursts filled Brampton's Rose Theatre early Wednesday after councillors narrowly voted down a $1.6 billion proposal to bring Light Rail Transit (LRT) through the city's heritage district.

"I am disappointed that this is the decision council made. I am prepared to work with our provincial and federal partners on any solutions in the future," said Mayor Linda Jeffrey, following a marathon meeting that ended in a 6-5 decision to end the Hurontario-Main LRT line at Steeles Avenue.

Mayor Jeffrey, who sought to overturn a 10-1 decision of the previous council to not drive mass transit through the downtown, saw support for Metrolinx's (Transit Project Assessment Process) approved route, with a minor routing amendment, fail.

Instead, after months of debate, heated exchanges and intense division in the community, council voted in favour of a separate motion 7-4 (including the mayor) that takes the Main Street surface route, north of the Etobicoke Creek through downtown Brampton off the table permanently.

The mayor and council will now look to regroup and at some point in the future make the pitch to senior levels of government for cash to fund a "Made in Brampton higher order rapid transit plan."

More than 400 people packed into Rose Theatre for the six-hour meeting, which saw a record number of delegates on both sides of the issue address council.

The meeting began at 7 p.m. on Tuesday and stretched to beyond 1 a.m. the following day as residents levelled arguments and counter arguments at one another.

In April, the provincial Liberals committed $1.6 billion to building a new, 23-kilometre mass transit system connecting Mississauga's lakeshore to the Four Corners GO train station.

Since then, the city has been split down the middle on where the tracks should go once they cross over the Mississauga border.

Opponents questioned ridership projections as well as development potential in the downtown and costs associated with running the LRT ever year. Supporters spoke of the "massive" potential that comes with transit investment.

Brampton's crucial decision on mass transit drew attention from across Canada and the globe.

"Tonight Council had an important once in a lifetime decision to make. Instead of looking forward they choose to say no to the first major and significant regionally integrated transit investment for Brampton in decades," said Jeffrey in a statement.

In the end, the decision came down to rookie Regional Councillor Michael Palleschi who managed to derail the preferred route after introducing a motion months ago to have councillors engage in what turned out to be a costly (estimated $75,000) and futile facilitation process for the mayor and her key supporters.

"I think that there are other opportunities. I think Brampton is a major player when it comes to the GTA," said Palleschi who threw his support behind downtown Ward 3 and 4 Councillor Jeff Bowman's motion to end the line at Steeles and reengage the province for an alternate. "It (Bowman's motion) calls for our mayor and council to work positively with Queen's Park and keep this city moving forward."

Considered an attempt at a compromise, Ward 3 and 4 Regional Councillor Martin Medeiros tabled a motion that introduced a "loop" that would take the LRT north on Main Street, west at around Nelson Street to George Street and then south to Wellington before reconnecting onto Main.

That option would call for a single track on a dedicated lane through the Four Corners at an additional $48 million — a cost proponents argued could come with a new federal partnership.

Medeiros had banked on the idea because he said Palleschi and other councillors "seemed amicable to the idea".

That gamble backfired however sending the Rose Theatre gallery into frenzy.

Cheers of jubilation from area residents (many concerned with the potential disruption of the heritage district) were drowned out by shouts and jeers coming from plan supporters.

Regional Councillor Gael Miles called council's rejection of the proposed plan "a crime."

The vote to end at Steeles Avenue won 7-4 with the mayor also casting a vote in favour.

When asked by media why she voted for Bowman's motion, Jeffrey answered "I just want to keep transit on the table" as an option for Brampton.

Bruce McCuaig, Metrolinx CEO, reiterated that the George Street loop was part of an original set of recommendations put on the table. He said planners would have to revisit the option and timelines but indicated that the amendment propose was achievable.

Earlier, McCuaig and other provincial authorities had made clear that Brampton council only had the choice to either accept the plan on the table or stop the project at Shoppers World.

Council's 'no' vote sends the money that would have been spent on the final 1 kilometre stretch through the downtown back into the province's general infrastructure pot.

Following the meeting, McCuaig indicated that the province's overall transit plan is still viable even without the downtown GO connection.

"It still performs very well. We still know that it's a very solid project. It's a positive service," said McCuaig.

The LRT is slated for completion by 2022


Trans-Pacific Partnership
deal bad for auto sector,
Ford Canada head says

Greg Keenan
The Globe and Mail
Oct. 26, 2015

Key automotive provisions of the Trans-Pacific trade agreement are bad for Canada, so the new Liberal government needs to take a careful look at the deal before approving it, says Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. chief executive officer Dianne Craig.

"We see [the Trans-Pacific Partnership] as a setback," Ms. Craig said in an e-mail on Sunday."At a minimum, the Canadian negotiators should have at least ensured Canada's auto sector mirrored the U.S. standards."

She is the only CEO of an auto maker operating in Canada to speak out against the deal, which removes tariffs on Japanese-built automobiles entering this country, allows auto makers in all 12 TPP countries to import vehicles with less regional content in them than the current rules of the North American free-trade agreement and removes tariff barriers on Canadian-built vehicles shipped to Malaysia and Vietnam.

Ms. Craig will take her case to Ottawa next month after the Liberal cabinet is appointed. One of the key issues she raised is the period during which Canada's 6.1-per-cent duty on vehicles imported from Japan will be eliminated under the TPP. That will happen over a fiveyear period once the trade deal comes into force, compared with a 25-year phaseout for the 2.5- per-cent U.S. tariff on passenger cars and 30 years for the 25-per-cent U.S. tariff on Japan-built trucks.

The impact the tariff elimination will have on sales depends on whether Japan-based companies reduce prices or take the tariff reduction as a contribution to profits, "but the industry is so competitive, so it still matters," Ms. Craig said.

The TPP trade deal has won public support from Canada's second- and third-largest auto parts companies, Linamar Corp. and Martinrea International Inc.

Executives of several of Canada's smaller parts makers have spoken out privately against the deal, saying that as suppliers mainly to auto makers in North America, they can't compete with companies in such low-wage countries as Vietnam and Malaysia. Among their fears is that Japan-based companies will increase their purchase of components made in those countries, assemble them into vehicles made in Japan, and then have the ability to ship those vehicles dutyfee to Canada.

Ford previously supported the Canada-EU free-trade deal, but opposed the Canada-South Korea deal, which will eliminate the 6.1-per-cent tariff on vehicles imported from South Korea. That will benefit Hyundai Canada. and Kia Canada.

Those Japan-based companies that have been asked whether they will reduce prices as a result of the elimination of the tariff on vehicles they make in their home country have said it's too early to tell if they will do so.

Mazda Canada Inc. and Subaru Canada Inc. stand to benefit most from tariff reduction. Each of those auto makers imported more than 70 per cent of the vehicles they sold in Canada last year from Japan.

Ford and the Canadian units of the Fiat Chrysler Automotives NV and General Motors Co. had also urged the federal government to ensure there was a clause in the TPP that prevented governments from manipulating currencies. Such a clause is not in the deal.

The previous Conservative government, which agreed to the TPP deal, promised during the election campaign to offer $1-billion over 10 years to attract new automotive investment and change the terms of financial support it offered to the industry, in part as an acknowledgment that sections of the industry would be harmed by the deal.

The federal government treated financial support to auto makers as loans and considered those loans taxable income, a measure that infuriated auto makers, notably Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc.

Ms. Craig said she will urge the new government to offer grants instead of loans and no longer make such financial support taxable.

The Canadian Automotive Partnership Council, a joint industry-union group that advises the federal, Ontario and Quebec governments on automotive policy, made such a recommendation last year.

The 10-year, $1-billion campaign promise made by the Tories represents a "drop in the bucket" when it comes to new automotive investment and the amounts of money that Mexico and southern U.S. states are offering, Ms. Craig noted.

She said she will urge Ottawa to increase that amount and adopt a national automotive strategy that will help encourage auto makers to increase investment in Canada


UAW strike deadline looms for GM

Michael Wayland,
The Detroit News
October 25, 2015

The United Auto Workers on Saturday set an 11:59 p.m. Sunday strike deadline for contract negotiations with General Motors Co.

The roughly 36-hour notice is similar to what occurred during negotiations with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV earlier this month that culminated with the union and automaker agreeing on a tentative agreement just before an 11:59 p.m. deadline on Oct 7.

A strike deadline is typically a way to turn up the heat on negotiators to reach a deal. There were no signs from the company or union that talks had broken down.

A message from UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada to GM North America Manufacturing and Labor Relations Vice President Cathy Clegg formally issued the strike deadline by giving notice of terminating a previously agreed upon indefinite contract extension from Sept. 14. The deadline comes two days after the union selected GM as its next target for negotiations.

GM confirmed that it received the deadline from the UAW in a statement: "GM confirms that we have received a negotiations deadline from the UAW. We are working with them to address the issues and remain committed to obtaining an agreement that is good for employees and the business."

If a deal is not reached by the deadline, it does not mean the union will strike. The two sides could decide to keep talking, move the deadline or a combination of options that include moving the bargaining focus to Ford Motor Co. But backing off from the deadline without an agreement could be seen as a weak move by some rank-and-file workers.

A national strike involving all 52,700 members with the automaker is the most drastic option the union could take. It also could call targeted strikes at select GM plants. Both types of strikes have occurred against GM in the past 20 years.

The last time the union called a strike against GM was in 2007. Production at more than 80 facilities in the U.S., idling more than 70,000 workers for two days. The strike cost GM more than $300 million a day, according to Buckingham Research Group.

The last major strike against a U.S. automaker came 17 years ago when the UAW struck two key GM plants in 1998 — Flint Metal Center and Delphi Flint East. That strike lasted 54 days, costing GM an estimated $2 billion and forcing it to idle nearly 180,000 employees and close 26 of 29 North American assembly plants; the strike also idled about 100 auto supplier plants.

Striking is historically painful to both sides: While the company can't afford to have product lines down for too long, the union also is hampered by paying strike benefits for a lengthy walkout. The UAW's strike fund has about $600 million in it, down from $1 billion in 2006.

This is the first year since 2007 that union members at GM and Fiat Chrysler were capable of striking. The UAW gave up the right to strike for the 2011 talks as a condition of the government bailouts of Chrysler and GM.

Kristin Dziczek, director of the Labor and Industry Group for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, has said a strike is the "ultimate weapon the union has."

UAW President Dennis Williams previously has said that a strike would be a bargaining failure. The union president told The Detroit News in mid-August that deciding to strike would be a "tough call."


Auto industry urges Trudeau to
mitigate impact of TPP deal

Steven Chase
The Globe and Mail
October 25, 2015

Canada's cornerstone auto industry is calling on prime-minister-designate Justin Trudeau for assistance to attract more investment and offset the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which would leave the sector more vulnerable to foreign competition.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement reached on Oct. 5 by Canada and 11 other Pacific Rim countries would eliminate Canadian tariffs on Japanese vehicles and make it easier for manufacturers to use offshore parts in cars. It would be a boon for low-wage Asian suppliers of parts, but a challenge for Canadian firms.

Every indication is that Mr. Trudeau's Liberals, who won a majority government on Monday, will ratify the TPP, the biggest trade agreement Canada has ever signed, rather than rejecting it as the NDP had promised.

During the election campaign, the Harper Conservatives had promised $1-billion over 10 years in aid for the auto sector, but it was not a government commitment. The Tories had pledged to funnel this money into the Automotive Innovation Fund, which runs out in 2017-18, and promised to disburse it as grants rather than repayable loans for certain types of investments.

Now that Stephen Harper's government is defeated, it will be up to the Liberals to decide what to offer an industry that directly employs more than 120,000 Canadians and has seen the ground shift under its feet.

Canada has a terrible record in recent years of attracting new auto investment compared with Mexico and the southern United States, where governments dole out hundreds of millions of dollars to finance new assembly plants. Canada was once the fourth-largest automotive-assembly country in the world, but as of 2014 is the 10th-largest.

Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association, said the changes that the TPP accord would bring – including an increase in allowable offshore content in autos, and the elimination of tariffs on Japanese cars – would have been offset in part by the Conservative promises "for funding for new car-maker commitments."

Mr. Volpe is looking to the Liberals now. "Past Liberal governments have been supporters of advanced manufacturing innovation and we look forward to hearing about and supporting this prime minister's strategic priorities," he said.


For Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association, which represents Canadian units of the Detroit Three auto makers, the need for assistance goes beyond the TPP. "Canada has not gotten its fair share of new auto investment and that's because these other jurisdictions are pursuing auto investment very, very aggressively," he said.

"As long as we have other jurisdictions … that are continuing to put together very aggressive support packages for the auto industry, we've got to be able to compete."

He said governments offering assistance to auto makers elsewhere "understand what the economic benefit of the auto industry is – and the return on the investment." He later added: "One job in the sector supports nine other jobs."

The auto assemblers want Canada to set the terms of the auto fund so that any assistance is no longer taxable.

The Liberals, who officially take power in early November, have said little about how Canada's ratification of the TPP would proceed.

"Canadians know that trade is important to creating good-paying jobs and growing our economy," Liberal spokesman Cameron Ahmad said.

"Mr. Trudeau remains committed to holding an open and transparent debate in Parliament on the TPP agreement, and consulting with Canadians."

The defeated Conservatives, before they went to the polls, set in motion a government commitment to provide farmers as much as $4.3-billion over 15 years in compensation for losses from both the TPP and the earlier Canada-European Union trade agreement.

In the wide-ranging TPP agreement, a 6.1-per-cent import duty on Japanese cars would be phased out over five years. The deal would also ease the domestic-content rules for vehicles and car parts, overriding rules in NAFTA that have protected Canadian auto jobs for decades.

Under NAFTA, the content rule was 62.5 per cent. The threshold would now be 45 per cent for cars and certain higher-value components, allowing more foreign parts to be used by auto makers in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Union officials have warned these concessions could put at risk some of the 80,000 auto-parts manufacturing jobs in Canada – a fear rejected by Conservative Trade Minister Ed Fast.


UAW to push for richer deal at GM

Detroit News
Melissa Burden,
Michael Wayland
October 24, 2015

The United Auto Workers will push for a richer deal with General Motors Co. than it did at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, where members overwhelmingly supported a sweetened, four-year contract in a second round of voting this week.

The union on Thursday announced GM as its second negotiating target. The notice came hours after the UAW confirmed that 77 percent of workers with Fiat Chrysler voted in favor of a revised contract that provides raises for all workers, including an eight-year progression intended to end the contentious two-tier wage structure that pays newer workers much less than veteran employees.

Increases in base wages, profit sharing, ratification bonuses and other lump sum payments are all on the table for the 52,700 UAW members covered at GM, industry insiders say.

On Thursday, members of UAW President Dennis Williams' staff went to the bargaining table with GM's bargaining team at the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources. Talks were planned into the evening, Friday and over the weekend.

Over the past five weeks while Fiat Chrysler was the union's focus, UAW bargainers continued to meet with representatives of GM and Ford Motor Co. to discuss non-economic issues. That means this new round of bargaining could move fairly quickly.

Williams says parts of the Fiat Chrysler contract could be used for pattern agreements at GM and Ford. "There is pattern issues in here," he told reporters when a second tentative agreement was reached. Yet "there are things that are also unique to FCA."

Many of those unique issues were the reason Fiat Chrysler workers voted 2-1 against a first tentative agreement that did not bridge a gap between entry-level and veteran workers, and provided little detail on product and job plans.

Some analysts believe Fiat Chrysler was selected as the union's first target because it is the weakest of the Detroit automakers and needed a less expensive deal than its rivals.

GM is far more profitable than Fiat Chrysler and has about half the number of entry-level, or second-tier workers. That makes it important for the Detroit automaker to appease veteran workers, many of whom haven't had a raise in a decade. GM on Wednesday announced record profits in North America. That means it will be difficult for the company to cry hardship.

'Challenging discussions'

Union leaders at both GM and Ford previously tried to distance themselves from the first tentative deal at Fiat Chrysler, pledging they would bargain for pacts that would specifically reward their members. Williams indicated then that he would seek more lucrative contracts with GM and Ford, given their higher profitability.

"I think it's going to be some challenging discussions they're going to have, to craft something to meet the desires of both sides," said Stephen Brown, senior director of corporate finance at FitchRatings.

Brown said GM and Ford want to keep labor costs at levels no higher than where they are today, but the union has been vocal that it expects the companies to deliver richer contracts. Based on the deal the UAW reached with Fiat Chrysler, analysts expect this contract will add to GM's labor costs at a time when the automaker wants to reduce labor costs to become more competitive with the Japanese automakers.

Some industry insiders say the union could push for higher wages for GM veteran workers than what Fiat Chrysler's members will receive, and perhaps even a shorter ramp-up time — less than the eight years at Fiat Chrysler — to close the gap between entry level and veteran workers.

The company could look to offset costs by lowering profit-sharing or seeking health care changes.

Kristin Dziczek, director of the industry and labor group at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, said the union has to be careful how much it pushes for fixed-cost raises.

"They have a target of what they want to pay," she said. "If you want it more in wages, you're going to take fewer jobs."

Job growth an issue

Fiat Chrysler's deal only details about 100 new jobs that would be created over the four years of the contract. It offsets costs with more frequent use of temporary workers and pays many new workers less than current employees. The deal does include an eight-year progression to top wages for entry-level workers; 6 percent wage increases and 8 percent lump-sum payments for veteran production workers over four years; and ratification bonuses of $4,000 for veteran workers and $3,000 for entry-level workers.

Dziczek does not expect job growth in GM's deal to come close to the number of jobs added by the automaker in the last four years. GM added 6,250 new jobs over the life of the 2011 UAW-GM contract.

GM announced this year $5.4 billion in planned investments at U.S. plants over the next three years, creating 650 new jobs. It announced last week it plans to hire hundreds of workers for its Spring Hill Assembly Plant in Tennessee.

And on Thursday morning, the automaker said it planned to add more than 1,200 jobs at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant with the addition of a long-awaited second shift early next year.

'A cyclical industry'

Art Schwartz, president of Ann Arbor-based consultancy firm Labor and Economics Associates, said negotiations are about keeping the company competitive for the long-term, while attempting to reward workers.

"Since the company's doing well now, the tendency is to say we need everything now," said Schwartz, a longtime negotiator with GM. "It's a cyclical industry. It goes up and down. People shouldn't get too excited in the ups and too depressed in the downs."

Schwartz said the contentious talks at Fiat Chrysler could have an impact on what happens at GM.

"I hope that the thought isn't that we need to turn down the first agreement to get more; that's not a good way to bargain," he said. "They need to bargain the first agreement to get a deal that can be ratified."


UAW FCA members
ratify labor deal

Michael Wayland,
Michael Martinez
Melissa Burden,
The Detroit News
October 23, 2015

An overwhelming majority of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' 40,000 United Auto Workers members voted in favor of a new four-year labor contract that includes raises for all workers and a $5.3 billion investment in North American plants.

The union on Thursday confirmed that 77 percent of production workers voted "yes" on the deal; skilled trades supported it by 72 percent; and salaried bargaining was at 87 percent. The results come three weeks after union membership resoundingly rejected the first tentative agreement between the two sides by a two-to-one margin.

"The recent bargaining process that took place on behalf of our members at FCA is a testament to the UAW's democratic values and commitment to our members," said UAW President Dennis Williams in a statement. "The resolve of our membership and the dedication of our negotiating team has produced an agreement that affords UAW members a strong wage package and job security while still allowing the company to competitively produce high quality vehicles for our customers."

Fiat Chrysler said it was "pleased" about the ratification, and it's now time to "look forward to continuing to build world-class products, investing in our operations and achieving the targets set out in our five year business plan."

"This agreement represents an investment in our U.S. workforce and recognizes its contributions to the company's growth over the past six years," the company said in a statement.

UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell described the deal as a "strong agreement that provides substantial wage gains, fairness in the workplace, and job security."

A second rejection would have been unprecedented in the modern automotive industry. The union will now have to decide to shift attention to General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. or both.

The official results come nearly 12 hours after The Detroit News reported the deal was expected to be ratified, with more than 70 percent of ballots were cast in support of the pact at several facilities. The closest voting results available was at the Toledo Assembly Complex, where 55 percent of production and 52 percent of skilled trades workers voted "yes." Production workers at all major assembly plants in Metro Detroit supported the deal by at least 70 percent.

"I think the second version of the tentative agreement addressed many of the workers' concerns and that's evident in their strong ratification," said Kristin Dziczek, director of the industry and labor group at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. "There was a clearer path to top tier wages for the current second-tier workers."

Many Fiat Chrysler workers voiced opposition to the first deal because it did not bridge a gap between entry-level and veteran workers. They were concerned about a lack of detail on product plans at plants and a proposed health care co-op. Many were angry about a lack of communication with members.

The main changes from the rejected deal include a path that over time would end a highly contested two-tier pay system; a new profit-sharing formula; and a bigger ratification bonus for veteran workers.

"It's a little bit better," Jeannetta Thompson, a second-tier worker at Warren Truck Assembly Plant, said while voting was still in progress. "You can't expect to get everything all at once."

Under the new agreement, second-tier workers would be boosted in steps over eight years to about $29 an hour or more, depending on the job — the same as veteran first-tier workers. The $30 rate is an increase from $25.35 under the rejected contract, and is $10 more than their current ceiling of $19.28 an hour.

Here are voting results obtained by The News for individual plants. The 12 plants employ 34,000 of the 40,000 workers – 85 percent – who are covered by the contract:

■UAW Local 7, which represents Jefferson North Assembly: 86 percent of production and 66 of skilled workers voted "yes."

■UAW Local 12, which represents Toledo Assembly Complex: 55 percent of production and 52 of skilled workers voted "yes."

■UAW Local 140, which represents Warren Truck: 70 percent of workers voted "yes."

■UAW Local 372, which represents Trenton Engine: 73 percent of production and 70 of skilled trades workers voted "yes."

■UAW Local 685, which represents several plants in Indiana: 55 percent of production and 52 of skilled workers voted "yes" (according to media reports).

■UAW Local 723, which represents employees at Dundee Engine: 91 percent of production and 85 percent of skilled trades workers voted "yes."

■UAW Local 869, which represents Warren Stamping: 82 percent of production and 66 percent of skilled trades workers voted "yes."

■UAW Local 1166, which represents Kokomo Casting: 89 percent of production and 90 percent of skilled trades workers voted "yes."

■UAW Local 1264, which represents Sterling Stamping: 84 percent of production and 64 percent of skilled trades workers voted "yes."

■UAW Local 1268, which represents Belvidere Assembly: 83 percent of production and 62 percent of skilled trades workers voted "yes."

■UAW Local 1435, which represents Toledo Machining: 63 percent of production and skilled trades workers, 100 percent of office and clerical workers, and 95 percent voted "yes."

■UAW Local 1700, which represents Toledo Assembly Complex: 78 percent of production and 66 of skilled workers voted "yes."


Ex-MPs could cost Canadians
$220M in pensions, severances

By sherrynoik
Canada Politics
October 22, 2015

Giving MPs the pink slip is going to cost Canadians an estimated $220 million, according to figures released this week.

There were 180 MPs who either didn't run or were defeated in Monday's election and are now set to collect very generous pensions and severances, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) said in its report.

About $5.3 million per year will go out in pension payments to MPs who failed to get re-elected or retired, collectively totalling $209 million by the time they all reach 90 years of age, the report's author Aaron Wudrick found.

Twenty-one of the former MPs are expected to collect more than $3 million each in lifetime pension earnings thanks, in part, to a plan that had taxpayers contribute $17 for every $1 an MP put in.

At the top of the list is Peter MacKay, who stepped down earlier this year after 18 years and four months in the House of Commons, where he held high-profile posts including Foreign Affairs, National Defence, Justice and Attorney General.

The 50-year-old could collect up to $5.9 million on his total contributions of $254,449.

MP pensions accrue at between 3 and 5 per cent per year — more if they serve as cabinet ministers, party leaders or committee chairs.

The CTF's lifetime estimates are based on pension payments up to age 90, using a "conservative" annual indexation of 2 per cent.

So Liberal Gerry Byrne, who served as MP for 19 years and six months, contributed $211,504 to his pension. By age 90, he will have collected $5.2 million.

Because they are under the pension kick-in age of 55, MacKay and Byrne also stand to collect severance cheques: $123,750 and $86,650, respectively, or half their annual salary.

In fact, 27 MPs will receive an estimated total of just over $11 million in severance payments even though they chose to leave the job, CTF calculations show.

And perhaps those who were sent packing shouldn't be compensated with severance either, Wudrick says.

"It isn't fired without cause, it's fired with cause — people don't want you anymore," he says. "You're elected — it's like voters are handing you a four-year fixed-term contract."

Regardless, he says, the fact they receive a half-year salary seems overly generous, especially when many of the departing MPs only served one term.

But Canadians won't have to be so generous with the current crop of MPs thanks to pension reforms passed by Parliament in 2012.

MPs' contributions have been gradually increasing so that by Jan. 1, 2017, they will reach a more equitable ratio, much closer to the type of scheme typical in the private sector: at that point, taxpayers will end up paying about $1.60 for every $1 an elected official contributes. The full-pension age has also been raised to 65 from 55.

For its report, the CTF used information from the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act and from the MPs' official biographies


NHTSA upgrades probe
into 253,000 F-150 trucks

David Shepardson,
Detroit News
Washington Bureau
Oct 21, 2015

Washington — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is upgrading an investigation into nearly 253,000 Ford F-150s because of braking problems that are linked to at least seven crashes and one injury.

NHTSA said Tuesday it is opening an engineering analysis into 252,910 2011-12 F-150 pickups after opening a preliminary investigation in June. NHTSA says it has reports of 432 complaints and 6,476 warranty claims relating to failures of the electric brake vacuum assist pump with 3.5-liter EcoBoost engines.

The failure of the pump leads to "increased brake pedal effort at cold start and extended stopping distance while driving in traffic," NHTSA says. In total, Ford has turned over records related to 1,851 warranty claims that cover either a hard brake pedal condition or reduced effectiveness – and 4,600 others for the part.

NHTSA said there was an injury in a vehicle struck in the rear by an F-150 with a failed part.

Ford said the F-150s under investigation utilize a traditional brake vacuum booster to provide power assist for braking. The electric brake vacuum pump, it said, is intended to maintain consistent brake pedal feel. It says the engine intake manifold is the primary source of vacuum for the booster and meets safety standards without the electric pump.

"We will cooperate with NHTSA on this investigation, as we always do," Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said Tuesday.

Ford told NHTSA it doesn't think a recall is necessary. The Dearborn automaker told NHTSA that conditions related to a change in brake pedal feel are "limited and temporary."

Ford said the failure of the electric pump due to rust is progressive and gives warning with noise and vibration before there's change in brake pedal feel.

The automaker turned over test data to NHTSA that looked at the impact on braking if the part is not working. The tests showed drivers would need two to three times usual braking forces to reach a stop when traveling 50 mph when the electric pump is disabled — and five to six times as much if there is a complete brake booster failure.

Opening an engineering analysis is a necessary step before NHTSA can formally demand an automaker recall vehicles.


Trudeau faces cabinet decisions
as Steven Harper steps down

Shawn McCarthy
Globe and Mail
October 20, 2015

After winning a decisive majority in a stunning comeback, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will turn his attention Tuesday to forming a cabinet and grappling with the host of urgent challenges that await him.

The Liberals won 184 of the country's 338 seats, capturing 39.5 per cent of the vote as the appetite for change drove the party from third place in Parliament to first with the largest increase in seats in a single election in Canada's history.

Mr. Trudeau is likely to hold a news conference Tuesday morning. His first priority will be forming a cabinet, and he will have Liberal MPs in every region of the country to choose from, including several veterans who served in cabinet in previous Liberal governments and some high-profile newcomers.

Election Results

For full coverage of Federal Election 2015

The Conservative's Stephen Harper has stepped down as leader, and an interim leader is to be selected from among the new Conservative caucus.

In his victory speech in Montreal, Mr. Trudeau sent out a message of unity to Canadians, continuing the positive approach he adopted during the campaign. The Liberals operated on the principle that "you can appeal to the better angels of our nature, and you can win doing it," he said.

He stayed away from specific promises, but vowed to lead a more open, accountable and inclusive government, a clear knock against his Conservative predecessor, Mr. Harper, who was widely criticized for centralizing power in Ottawa, and treating opponents as enemies.

The incoming prime minister faces some pressing issues, requiring immediate attention. He must decide whether Canada will ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-country trade deal that could mean major changes for the country's supply-managed agricultural sector, auto industry and digital economy. During the campaign, Mr. Trudeau said he needed to see the text of the agreement before deciding on a position – his decision may be helped by the fact U.S. President Barack Obama may not have the support needed to win approval in the U.S. Congress.

He also has a heavy schedule of travel in November, including a trip to the Group of 20 meeting in Turkey, where Middle East conflict will be prominent on the agenda. Mr. Trudeau has promised to end Canada's combat participation in the air war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and will have to explain that change to NATO partners, including the United States.

He will also likely attend the United Nations climate summit in Paris, which starts at the end of November, and has promised to work with the provincial premiers to send a message to the world that Canada fully embraces the battle against global warming and will have a more ambitious strategy. However, Mr. Trudeau said Ottawa will not set any new targets until he has had a chance to meet with premiers after the summit.

Environmental groups are pressing Mr. Trudeau to meet with premiers before Paris to bring a new Canadian offer to the table.

As Mr. Trudeau leads the transition to a Liberal government, the Conservatives and New Democrats will begin the soul-searching over what went wrong in the 2015 campaign, and how they can turn around their fortunes, After holding power for nearly 10 years, Mr. Harper's Conservatives dropped to official opposition status, with 99 seats and 32 per cent of the popular vote. The Conservative had won 39 per cent of the popular vote four years ago, though the party held its core vote throughout the campaign.

Voter turnout was 68 per cent, one of the highest measures since 1993, according to preliminary numbers from Elections Canada.

The Conservatives lost a slew of cabinet ministers, including finance minister Joe Oliver and environment minister Leona Aglukkaq.

The Liberal gains also came at the expense of the New Democratic Party, which entered the race as the frontrunner. The NDP won 44 seats and lost prominent MPs, including Megan Leslie in Halifax, Paul Dewar in Ottawa and Pat Martin in Winnipeg.

Leader Tom Mulcair won his Quebec riding but will have a much-reduced caucus, and may faces challenges to his leadership after he steered the party toward to centre with his promise of balanced budgets.

Mr. Mulcair said Monday night that he would continue his role as opposition leader in order to hold Mr. Trudeau and his Liberal government to account.

The vote put an end to a long, acrimonious campaign that saw charges of Conservative Islamophobia and a bitter fight between the Liberals and NDP for the "change vote," a battle the Liberals won.

Mr. Harper was unbowed in his concession speech Monday night.

"During the past nine and a half years it has been an unbelievable honour to serve as your Prime Minister," he said in his Calgary riding, which he won. "We gave everything we have to give and we have no regrets whatsoever. Friends, how could we? We remain citizens of the best country on Earth."

Jason Kenney, Defence Minister in the outgoing government and a likely front-runner for the Tory leadership, said it was "obviously a bad night for the Conservative Party, but we'll come back."

"On substantive points, we've been a very good government. I think where we went wrong was on tone and we have to learn from our mistakes. Obviously, the collapse of the NDP didn't help us at all," said Mr. Kenney, who won his Calgary seat handily.



Federal Election Results
October 19, 2015

Last night’s election results clearly demonstrated that Canadians want change. Canadians sent a clear message that the Harper Conservative agenda does not represents our interests and needs.

The Liberals have said that they want to transform the country and Parliament. Now they are in a position to do so and we are expecting change. The new government must bring a new spirit of collaboration to Ottawa and should work with the NDP so Canadians can benefit from the best ideas, often born of cooperation.

We lament the loss of the many progressive and thoughtful NDP MPs who lost their seats in this election.

Thank you to the thousands of Unifor members across Canada who got involved in this election, through workplace canvasses, volunteering on local campaigns and bringing attention to important local issues. Thank you for your efforts.

Our work is not finished, it is only beginning – we will remain committed to changing the politics of this country so that we can all thrive.

We will ensure the Liberals are held to account for the commitments they made during the election, including: protecting our health care system, improving Employment Insurance and strengthening the Canada Pension Plan.

This is not over, this is only the beginning of the change we must see in our country. 

In solidarity,
Jerry Dias - President, Unifor



Pearson wheelchair workers in
limbo after latest contract flip

Up to 375 workers will have to start over in low-wage jobs after
airport authority flips contract for fourth time in a decade.

Sara Mojtehedzadeh
Work and Wealth reporter,
Oct 19 2015

They're the low-wage workers helping Pearson's most vulnerable passengers.

But now, hundreds face losing their job as the airport's wheelchair handling contract is set to flip for the fourth time in a decade, the Star has learned.

According to an internal memo obtained by the Star, Toronto Ground Airport Services will lose its passenger assistance contract with the airport authority in February 2016 — despite having provided the service for less than a year.

That means up to 375 TGAS employees, who will only just have qualified to receive medical benefits with the company, will find themselves out of work and forced to reapply with whoever takes over.

"This is the fourth time that (workers have) had to start over," said Lou Pagrach, general chairperson with union IAMAW, which represents passenger assistance workers.

"It's not a nice feeling. These aren't high-paid employees. These people make $12 an hour. It's people that are scraping by," he added.

TGAS took over the wheelchair handling contract from Swissport in May — the third time the service had changed hands since 2004.

Although almost 300 employees had to reapply to work with TGAS, Pagrach said most were taken back on and even got a slight raise. But their benefit entitlements did not carry over, and will only kick in as of Nov. 1 — just three months before they could be forced to look for work all over again.

"They thought they were going to be able to get their medical benefits … they thought they were going to be able to have some stability in their lives and it's going to be thrown upside-down again," said Pagrach.

The Star has previously highlighted the damaging effects of contract flipping on workers' wages and benefits, as well as on public safety. Critics say the practice, which involves sub-contracting out services and changing providers every few years, is a way to shed employees, cut pay and keep entitlements low.

But the latest flip is unusual in that TGAS held the contract for less than a year before being turfed by the Greater Toronto Airports Authority. In an emailed statement, the GTAA said only that TGAS's services would come to an end in 2016, but that "airlines will continue to comply with their accessibility obligations and the GTAA's safety and service level standards for our passengers." The Star was unable to reach TGAS for comment.

"(Workers) actually got a raise when they went to this employer, this employer is actually good," said Pagrach. "We're not mad at the employer, it's the GTAA that's the bad person."

It's unclear what will happen to the service once TGAS is removed from its role. According to the memo obtained by the Star, as of Feb. 1, "all Airlines will have the opportunity to provide their own wheelchair handling service for passengers requesting special service assistance."

But Pagrach said his union had already met with the GTAA to advise against the flip, or to at least delay it.

"It just means even more contractors arriving at the airport undercutting the work," said Sean Smith of the Toronto Airport Workers' Council.

"There's no control. There's absolutely no control going on here anymore,"

Timeline of recent contract flips at Pearson

2004: GTAA launches passenger assistance program in Terminals 1 & 3 for all airlines except Air Canada. Contract awarded to Servisair.

2007: Contract is re-tendered, and this time awarded to Toronto Ground Airport Services.

2012: Servisair, now bought out by Swissport, takes over the contract again. It implements a two-year wage freeze, according to union Unifor.

May 2015: Toronto Ground Airport Services replaces Swissport as passenger assistance provider.

September 2015: The GTAA rules TGAS will lose the contract in February 2016.


Strong turnout expected in election that may turn on desire for change

Shawn McCarthy
The Globe and Mail
October 19, 2015

Voters are expected to show up in huge numbers today after the longest campaign in modern Canadian history, in an election that appears to be turning on the appetite for change and on which opposition party would best answer that desire.

Party leaders zigzagged across the country Sunday, attempting to shore up support in ridings they need to hold and to close the sale with undecided voters who are inclined to tick the ballot in their favour.

As enthusiastic crowds packed campaign rallies on the final weekend, Elections Canada said it was preparing for a large turnout, and advised returning officers that they may have to add extra staff or begin counting ballots from the advanced polls before the end of the day Monday. Elections Canada said turnout for advance polls last weekend was 71-per-cent higher than it was in the 2011 election.

Both the Liberals and the New Democrats have campaigned for the past 78 days to persuade Canadians that they represent the best option to provide a new direction in Ottawa; Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau seized the momentum and built a significant lead over Tom Mulcair and the NDP in national polls. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper focused on Mr. Trudeau over the final days of the campaign, warning voters that a Liberal government would usher in a period of higher taxes and large deficits.

Polls suggest a large majority of voters want to see change in Ottawa, but it's unclear how that will translate into seats in tight races across the country.

Mr. Trudeau – who finished his campaign in Montreal after a marathon, cross-country blitz – spent the early part of the day Sunday in Edmonton and Calgary, showcasing his party's hope for surprises when the polls close on Monday. The Liberals have failed to make major inroads in Alberta for decades, since the days of Pierre Trudeau's National Energy Policy, while the sponsorship scandal has severely tarnished the Liberal brand in Quebec.

The Liberal Leader addressed the matter head on at a rally in Edmonton. "This place is important to me, it matters deeply," he said in front of hundreds of supporters. "It's a message that I'm proud to deliver here with a big smile as a Liberal, as a Trudeau and as a Quebecker." In French, he added that he hoped that Quebeckers would play a large part in his efforts to "end the Harper decade."

Mr. Mulcair concluded his long and challenging fight to persuade voters to elect the country's first NDP government with rallies in Canada's largest cities, claiming to have momentum while polls suggest it began slipping away from him weeks ago.

The NDP Leader insisted the Liberals are promising change but would fail to deliver it if they form government. He pointed to the problem the Liberals had with a campaign co-chair, Daniel Gagnier, who was forced to resign after writing a memo to TransCanada Corp. advising the company how to lobby Ottawa on its proposed Energy East pipeline in the event of a change in government.

"Canadians deserve change in Ottawa," Mr. Mulcair told a crowd of about 1,000 supporters at a rally Sunday in a Toronto convention centre. "Let's remember that it was Liberal arrogance and corruption that Stephen Harper promised to clean up and, today, after 10 years of Conservative scandals, the Liberals are asking you to trust them to clean up that mess."

After the stop in Toronto, Mr. Mulcair headed to Montreal and his home province, where his party rode an Orange Wave in 2011 to become the Official Opposition but faces a tough four-way battle this time.

Mr. Harper sharpened his attack on Mr. Trudeau in the waning hours of the 2015 election campaign, trying to frame the Liberal front-runner as an elitist who would put special interests and the needs of the federal bureaucracy ahead of ordinary Canadians.

He launched his final appeal for votes in the campaign with yet another rally in the Greater Toronto Area on Sunday morning, where he warned a Liberal government would mark a return to fat-cat Ottawa.

"When you cut away all the fancy rhetoric, that's all it is really about: turning back the clock to the days where everybody worked for a handful of special interests," Mr. Harper said. "We do not want to go back to the days where government ran for a handful of Liberal special-interest groups and for the bureaucracy. We want to serve the hard-working families of this country."

Though he has been in power for nearly a decade, Mr. Harper has consistently sought to run as a populist outsider. The anti-elitist appeal likely resonates most strongly with the party's base, and Mr. Harper and the Tories will need to work flat out on election day to get those supporters to the polls.

Mr. Harper received an 11th-hour blow on Sunday from any unlikely source – a former legal counsel in the Prime Minister's Office and lifelong conservative, Benjamin Perrin. In an e-mail to reporters, Mr. Perrin said his experience with the PMO's handling of the scandal involving Senator Mike Duffy persuaded him that the Conservative government "has lost its moral authority to govern" and that he had voted "for change" in advanced polling last weekend.

On the eve of the election, the Liberals appeared to have widened their lead over the Conservatives in a Nanos Research poll. When asked which party they would support if an election were held today, 39.1 per cent of respondents picked the Liberals, 30.5 per cent picked the Tories and 19.7 per cent chose the NDP.

As for other parties, 4.6 per cent of respondents picked the Green Party and 5.5 per cent chose the Bloc Québécois.

The poll was conducted by Nanos Research for The Globe and Mail and CTV and surveyed 800 people on Oct. 18 through live phone interviews. The margin of error is plus/minus 3.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The full survey and questions can be read here.


New Democrats, Liberals should
team up to oust Tory minority,
former NDP leader says

Bill Curry
Globe and Mail
October 18, 2015

Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent says the NDP and the Liberals should work together to replace the Conservatives even if they win a strong minority government on Monday.

Polls suggest a minority Parliament is the most likely outcome of the Oct. 19 election, but the stage is set for an unusual sequence of events should the Conservatives have the most seats.

Calculations done on Oct. 16 by political scientist Paul Fairie for The Globe and Mail based on public opinion polls indicate only an 11 per cent chance that any party will get a majority. Dr. Fairie said there is a 74 per cent chance the Liberals will win the most seats and a 27 per cent chance the Conservatives will do so.

Usually, the party that wins the most seats in a Canadian minority Parliament finds a way to get its agenda through the House of Commons. Given public statements by NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, it would appear that a Liberal or NDP minority would be able to govern with the support of the other party in the House of Commons.

However, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper would have a much harder time if his party finishes first. Mr. Harper led two minority governments between 2006 and 2011 before winning a majority. But the political environment has changed.

The Liberals and the NDP said clearly during the campaign that they would not in any circumstances support a Conservative government. That means a Harper minority could be defeated on its first confidence vote.

Some observers say the Liberals and NDP should stand down if the Conservatives win a strong minority that is relatively close to the 170 seats required to have a majority in the 338 seat House of Commons.

Mr. Harper has said during the campaign that the party with the most seats should govern.

He put it more bluntly during a 2010 trip to the United Kingdom, stating that "losers don't get to form coalitions."

Mr. Broadbent, who took part in 2008 negotiations with the Liberals – including former prime minister Jean Chrétien – on a potential minority government coalition that would have unseated the Conservatives, strongly disputes Mr. Harper's comments.

"He's totally, factually wrong," Mr. Broadbent said.

While in opposition, Mr. Harper appeared to take a different view than the one he now holds. In 2004, he wrote to the governor-general suggesting the second-place party – his – could form a government.

In 2004, during the Liberal minority Parliament under Paul Martin, Mr. Harper signed a joint letter with Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe and then NDP leader Jack Layton that urged then governor-general Adrienne Clarkson to "consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options" should the Liberals request an election.

"He just has a flexible memory," Mr. Broadbent said.

Mr. Broadbent added that he has not been speaking with the Liberals lately and does not know what the NDP is planning in response to a minority government result. However, he said he would expect the two parties would act quickly if there is a minority government.

"They've both made it clear that they want Mr. Harper gone from office. They're both serious men who would know that the people of Canada are looking for some kind of stability in government and I would think that they would respond reasonably quickly and give the early signs of such discussions on their part to the media," he said.

Former Liberal MP Bob Rae has a unique perspective on the issue. He supported a 1985 agreement as leader of the Ontario NDP to support Liberal leader David Peterson as premier of a minority legislature, even though the Progressive Conservatives had the most seats.

In an interview, Mr. Rae said Mr. Harper is wrong to argue that the first-place party automatically gets to govern, although he suggested the second and third place parties will have to consider a political grey area based on the final seat count.

"There's constitutional legitimacy and then there's political legitimacy, and that I think is something that everybody has to weigh and that I'm sure is something that will be on the minds of the people in all the parties," he said. "The real point is the idea – which is the one that Mr. Harper has espoused since 2006 – that whoever wins the plurality of seats wins all the marbles is just complete nonsense. ... It has no basis in Canadian law and I think whether it has a basis in political opinion really depends on the arguments that are made to the public and to political leadership."



UAW leaders push for
OK of Fiat Chrysler deal

Detroit NewsMichael Wayland,
Melissa Burden,
Michael Martinez

October 16, 2015

The UAW International has released two new videos featuring local UAW leaders and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV hourly members who seem supportive of the second tentative deal, as informational meetings for members proceed ahead of next week's contract vote.

In one video posted Thursday to the union's Facebook page, several local UAW leaders talk about how the "no" vote on the initial tentative agreement reached by the union and company has strengthened the union.

"I believe the 'no' vote actually brought us together as a union," said Marylyn Bonds, recording secretary of UAW Local 140 which represents Warren Truck Assembly Plant employees. "I believe the 'no' vote sent a message to Sergio (Marchionne) that we are serious about our livelihood. I also feel that the 'no' vote was a message to all the unions across the world that if we stand together, we can basically get the things that we want in solidarity."

Opposition over the latest four-year tentative agreement between the union and Fiat Chrysler appears subdued compared to the first deal that was rejected by a 2-to-1 margin. Since the tentative new deal was reached just prior to a strike deadline Oct. 7, there have been no large protests planned, social media chatter has died down and talk on many factory floors is that the deal is far improved.

On Thursday, some workers leaving an informational meeting at UAW Local 140 in Warren said there appeared to be concern among members about a potential loss of 2,406 jobs at the Warren Truck plant. That job figure was cited in the contract highlighter. Sources have said the Ram 1500 would move from Warren to Sterling Heights Assembly, and would be replaced by the upcoming Jeep Grand Wagoneer. The highlighter said the plant's current vehicle would end production in 2017.

Despite the concern about job losses, some workers said the overall meeting mood was OK.

The union was criticized for not updating members and for not responding to a very vocal group of workers who took to social media for answers on the first tentative deal. The union's messages to its members and its transparency has changed dramatically in the past week or so. Since the first contract defeat, the UAW has launched a social-media blitz with the help of New York-based BerlinRosen, a public relations firm the union had been working with on an unrelated matter before negotiations.

Don Tanner, a partner of Farmington Hills-based public relations firm Tanner-Friedman, told The Detroit News that using video could be "very effective" for the union. "People are thirsty for information and if the UAW isn't saying anything, they're going to look to others and that information may or may not be accurate," Tanner said.

Donald Foster, president of UAW Local 7 which represents employees at Fiat Chrysler's Jefferson North Assembly Plant, is in the video. He says in the video that the defeat of the first agreement allowed the bargaining team "to negotiate a better agreement because they had the strength and the power in numbers because of the membership."

Bonds says in the video she hopes the new deal "can pass and we can move forward with our lives and build a good product for the next four years."

In a second video posted late Wednesday on the union's Facebook page, team leaders and workers from UAW Local 7 that represents members at Fiat Chrysler's Jefferson North Assembly Plant, spoke out against the last failed contract.

"I felt betrayed because I felt they didn't hold their end of the bargain from the last contract," Raymond Vernatter said.

Keith Stacks, a second-tier worker at the plant, said he didn't like the contract at all because it didn't eliminate the tiers. "I was looking and it had a cap of $25 and I'm a two tier and I wanted to be able to make the same pay as the traditional workers," he said. "That affected me because we didn't have too much to look forward to."

Frank Gennero, a team leader with UAW Local 7, said in the video that workers' anger over the first tentative contract had affected the mood on the shop floor.

"I honestly felt that affected production and quality because they really didn't have a vested interest; there wasn't a light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "Now with the second contract coming back, they know they're going get the top pay, they know the job security will be there eventually and (if) they want a job for life, they can support their families on this income."

Fiat Chrysler members will vote on the new deal Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. UAW members are working under contract extensions reached before the union's contract with the three companies expired a month ago. The union has not announced its next company target for bargaining.




Automotive Policies of the
Big Three Political Parties

by Jacob Black
October 14, 2015

It's an industry that employs more than half a million people with about a quarter of those employed directly. There is a significant population employed in downstream supply and there are entire towns that rely on the presence of automotive manufacturing to keep afloat.

Yet, the automotive industry in Canada is on rocky ground. There are many who fear Canada could be the next Australia – which will lose its final automotive factory in 2017 when Ford, GM and Toyota all wrap up production.

Here in Canada General Motors' Oshawa plant has already seen reductions in production and recently lost the job of building the Camaro – one of the General's halo cars. That blow was demoralizing on an emotional level but it was perhaps the loss of pickup truck production at the campus that impacted the community hardest with the loss of jobs. And though GM's Ingersoll plant retained production of the high-volume Equinox, Oshawa is feeling the pressure.

Toyota produces the RAV4, Corolla and Lexus RX in Canada at the moment but will shift Corolla production to Mexico in 2016. Corolla production in Cambridge will be replaced with larger cars but those will surely have less build volumes than the highly popular Corolla.

Fiat Chrysler Automotive is also looking like cutting minivan and Ram Cargo Van production from the Windsor plant after failing to secure government incentives to retool the facility. FCA will continue to build the Dodge Charger, Dodge Challenger and Chrysler 300 at the Brampton plant.

In total since 2003 over 50,000 manufacturing jobs have left Canada.

Since 2009 alone 145 automotive supplier plants in Canada have closed and 41 have opened leaving a net loss of 104 plants. Nine new car building plants have been added in North America, most of which were in Mexico, none in Canada.

This, at a time when automotive sales are through the roof.

In 2014 more than $24 billion was spent on new investments, a third more than in 2013. Of that money, Canada attracted just $118 million, or 0.5 percent.

China got $12.7B in 2014, with Mexico and the USA, Canada's biggest competitors scoring $4.2 and $9.3 each. In 2015, the USA and Mexico are both securing large investments and adding more jobs than Canada is.

The gap is set to get wider, despite Honda committing $857M to its Alliston, Ontario plant, GM spending $560M to shore up 3,000 jobs at Ingersoll and Ford adding 400 jobs at Oakville.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair's unveiling of his party's automotive platform this month put the issue of automotive jobs squarely in the spotlight, but has the manufacturing ship sailed for Canada?

The Automotive Policy Research Centre (APRC) at McMaster University highlights the shift in production to countries like Mexico as a key challenge for Canadian manufacturers. Mexico has more advantageous trade agreements, lower wage costs and lower taxes than Canada.

The APRC also identifies two trends in the sector that could give Canada an opportunity to redefine its role and cement jobs and industry here. Those two trends are the pursuit of lower vehicle emissions in efforts to reduce air pollution and the emergence of the vehicle as a hub of connectivity. In short, the growth of advanced technology is an opportunity for Canada to flex its muscles as a nation with a well-educated, highly skilled, and innovative workforce.

With a federal election looming and in the wake of the NDP's policy unveiling we decided to drill down and get to the bones of what the big three are offering and what direction they see the industry moving.

New Democratic Party

Tom Mulcair promises to protect the existing regional content rules during trade negotiations, propping up a valuable safety net for the industry.

The NDP will also immediately re-fund the University of Windsor's Auto21 Network of Centres of Excellence. That program is currently in its final year of funding, and a renewal would see it continue to coordinate research into everything from child seats to manufacturing techniques and anti-theft systems.

Mulcair also promises to set up a one-stop shop for investors called ICanada. This would allow auto investors to access a new government service that helps connect them with the various government programs and financial incentives available.

The centrepiece of the NDP policy though is a $90-million boost in funding to the Federal Automotive Supplier Innovation Program. The fund, to which the Conservatives pledged $100M in April, will get the extra $90M over five years.

In addition, the NDP will remove the taxation claimed by CRA on loans paid out from the fund, saving $20M for investors. The tax was claimed payable as loans made under the scheme were considered income by the revenue agency, which would change under an NDP government.

"I will be a champion for the auto sector and will work closely with automakers and provinces to attract investment in automobile assembly and parts manufacturing," said party leader Tom Mulcair.

"With a reliable partner in an NDP government, I believe the best days are ahead for Canada's automakers – together we can kick-start manufacturing."

The NDP plan has strong support from Unifor and the United Steel Workers.

Liberal Party of Canada

It's all about going green over in Justin Trudeau's camp. While they haven't yet unveiled a specific automotive or manufacturing policy, the Liberals have their own automotive caucus to focus on the issue and has earmarked "clean" technology as an area of focus for any future Liberal Government.

"We understand that manufacturing is the number one investor in research and development. We will help manufacturers to modernize and reach new markets," the Party said in a statement to autoTRADER.ca.

"As a start, we believe Canada can be the world's most competitive tax jurisdiction for investments in the research, development, and manufacturing of clean technology. We will consult on ways to enhance the scientific research and experimental development tax credit – in conjunction with other tax measures – to generate more clean technology investment.

"Moreover, we will invest $100 million more per year in organizations that have been successful at supporting the emergence of clean technology firms in Canada and work in partnership with the private sector to enhance the availability of venture capital for new, clean technology."

These commitments are indicative of a Liberal Party focus that moves away from traditional manufacturing and moves towards the new style of automotive market. But, the Liberals have also committed $60 billion in infrastructure funding. They say the New Building Canada Fund will "prioritize investments in roads, bridges, transportation corridors, ports, and border gateways" – this spending on infrastructure is how the Liberals plan to attract more investment into Canada and by extension, the automotive sector.

The commitment to assist research in clean technology aligns with the APRC's recognition of current trends in the automotive sector and the ongoing push for cleaner technology and lower vehicle emissions.

To sum it up, while not committing any funding to support existing manufacturing jobs, the Liberals aim to support manufacturing in the country by fostering the development of new tech.

Conservative Party of Canada

The Conservative Party opted to bail out Chrysler and GM after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC), and in April pledged $100 million to the Federal Automotive Supplier Innovation Program. That money in part came out of the Automotive Innovation Fund which has been under-utilized.

The Conservative Party has been criticized for the decline in manufacturing jobs in Canada over the past 10 years, but points out that it also saved the Windsor, Brampton, Oshawa and Ingersoll plants from certain death at the peak of the GFC with the GM and Chrysler bailouts. The shares in GM were sold this year at an estimated loss of $3.5 billion.

Manufacturing jobs in Canada have fallen by 5,500 since 2010 with the heaviest losses felt in Windsor.

Having said that, the industry has seen a boost in investment in 2015, with Ford, GM and Honda all announcing new projects. Ford added 400 jobs at Oakville for the Ford Edge, GM will spend $560M on its Ingersoll plant which currently employs 3,000 people and Honda will spend $857M on the plant at Alliston.

Just two weeks ago, in Windsor, Stephen Harper announced a new, five-year, $100M Manufacturing Technology Demonstration Fund. This would provide grants instead of loans to fund research into new manufacturing products and technology across a range of manufacturing sectors, including automotive.

Similar to the NDP, the Conservative Party would also form a new office within the PMO which would focus on attracting new investors, businesses and export partners to Canada.

This would remove much of the red tape which manufacturers say is hurting their ability to access programs like the Automotive Innovation Fund which had over half-a-million dollars of unused money left over in 2014.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

While the TPP is far broader than just automotive manufacturing its far-reaching consequences could impact the industry. There are 12 countries in the TPP, the USA, Japan, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, Chile, Peru, New Zealand, Vietnam and Brunei.

Theoretically the TPP will open up trade in goods, services and agriculture more than any agreement prior. This on one hand opens up new markets and therefore more demand for Canadian goods but on the other could make Canada more vulnerable to price-competition for goods and services. It will almost certainly reduce the amount of protection the government can provide local industries through tax policies and local content rules.

On the pro side, the Conservative Party is as we speak working to secure Canada's position in the new Trans Pacific Partnership. Stephen Harper says the TPP is essential for Canada and that it will open foreign export markets for Canadian suppliers, including Canadian automotive parts suppliers. It also reduces the reliance on exports to America at a time when American economic influence is waning.

The Liberal Party likewise supports the TPP but expresses concern about protecting Canadian laws. It wants to ensure the TPP doesn't unduly expose Canadian industry, but also wants to make sure trade happens within the legal framework of Canada. In other words, the Liberal Party wants to ensure Canada's sovereignty is not weakened by the TPP. Still, the Liberal Party is likely to support the agreement.

The NDP is concerned about the impact the TPP will have on agriculture in particular and farmers make up a large base of the party.

The NDP is also concerned the TPP will impact "local content" restrictions. Currently vehicles sold in North America must have 62.5 percent locally-made parts in order to escape duties. Individual auto parts needed to have 60 percent local content. The TPP would reduce that to 45 percent and widen the "local" region to include all 12 TPP countries. The secretive nature of the negotiations means we don't know exactly what's on the table beyond that – yet.

Currently, it looks like the NDP would not sign Canada up to the TPP in order to protect local content rules and protect the Canadian auto sector from competition as well as protect supply management – the systems that help control the price of poultry and dairy products in Canada.

Update: The TPP was signed on Friday, October 5. Full details of the agreement won't be available for some time but you can expect this to take on a deeper significance to the election race.

Summing Up

The NDP platform is very much focused on supporting the existing jobs in manufacturing by boosting the available incentives to investment. They will attract new investors by making it easier for them to liaise with the government and access programs.

The Liberal Party platform is focused on shifting to a new kind of manufacturing economy and is particularly focused on clean/green technology.

The Conservative policy is in some ways a middle ground, with a more modest injection of incentives than the NDP but also a focus on innovation and research funding.


Ford to invest $1.8B
in China research

Associated Press
October 13, 2015

Beijing — Ford Motor Co. is investing $1.8 billion to develop technologies aimed at attracting Chinese car buyers, underlining China's importance to automakers despite slowing sales growth.

The American automaker said Monday it will expand its research and development center in the eastern city of Nanjing and work on autonomous driving, smartphone connectivity, more efficient powertrains and other technologies.

Global automakers see China as a key source of sales growth and are spending heavily to appeal to Chinese tastes. Some have broken with a strategy of selling the same models worldwide and are creating China-only vehicles.

Automakers are stepping up investment despite an unexpectedly sharp downturn in sales this year. In July, General Motors Co. announced a $5 billion initiative with its main Chinese partner to develop vehicles to be sold in China, Brazil, India and Mexico.

Auto sales in China declined in August for a third straight month, contracting by 3.4 percent from a year earlier to 1.4 million vehicles. Ford's August sales declined by 3 percent to 79,608, while year-to-date sales were off 1 percent at just over 700,000.

Demand has been hurt by congestion in Beijing, Shanghai and other major cities that has made car ownership less attractive and by official efforts to curb traffic and smog by limiting the number of new vehicle registrations.

Ford said features it hopes to offer in China include introduction next year of SYNC 3, a system that allows hands-free control of phones, entertainment, climate control and navigation.

Ford said it will add a vehicle test center in Nanjing, expanding its ability to develop products in China.

The company has 10 manufacturing facilities in China. The Nanjing Research and Engineering Center employs 1,900 people and is one of eight global product development centers.

In April, Ford and a local partner said they would spend $1.1 billion on a factory in China's northeast.


UAW: FCA deal 'one of richest
ever negotiated'

Michael Wayland,
Melissa Burden and
Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
Oct 12, 2015

In presenting a new tentative contract described as "one of the richest ever negotiated" by United Auto Workers leaders, union President Dennis Williams sounded confident Friday that negotiators have an agreement that will be ratified this time by its 40,000 members at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

The new deal, Williams said, was "overwhelmingly supported" by UAW leadership who gathered Friday in Warren and gave it a "sincere" standing ovation.

"They're very happy with the outcome," Williams told reporters during a conference call after the meeting.

The comments came three weeks after Williams said he believed the membership would ratify the first tentative agreement with the automaker. It was rejected by 65 percent of the workforce.

It is now up to the union's membership, including 36,600 hourly production workers, to vote on the latest deal. Williams did not give a deadline for voting.

The main changes from the rejected deal include a path that over time would end a highly contested two-tier pay system; a new profit-sharing formula; and a bigger ratification bonus for veteran workers.

Locally, the summary — known as the "highlighter" — released by the union Friday refers to potential job losses at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant, but gains at Sterling Heights Assembly. Over the four-year contract, only 103 jobs are expected to be added nationwide.

A proposed health care co-op in the failed deal — which had been touted as a way to save costs by pooling all workers at the three Detroit automakers — was deleted from new pact.

The latest deal, like the rejected one, does not commit to significantly changing alternative work schedules that include shifts of 10 hours or more. The highlighter says the company and union would meet within 60 days following the contract's ratification "to consider other alternative work schedules."

Details were released two days after Fiat Chrysler and the UAW reached an agreement before an 11:59 p.m. Wednesday strike deadline.

"It looks like they've made some significant gains," said Art Wheaton, a labor expert at Cornell University. "They can say we took (Fiat Chrysler) to a strike, and now they've made a pathway to parity, but I still think it's going to be a tough ratification vote. I don't think it will be overwhelming."

Boost for second tier

The new agreement most notably gives second-tier workers — now known as "in-progression" — a clear path after eight years to make the same wages as veteran first-tier workers. They will make about $29 an hour or more depending on the job, up from $25.35 under the previous rejected contract. It's a $10 an hour hike from their current ceiling of $19.28 an hour.

"The membership really wanted a clear path," Williams said. "They don't want to be considered second-class citizens."

Appeasing second-tier workers was particularly important for Fiat Chrysler, which has a 45 percent entry-level workforce, the highest of the Detroit automakers. General Motors Co. is at 21 percent. Ford Motor Co. is at 28 percent.

Second-tier workers currently at Mopar facilities would have the same path to same top wage as their production counterparts. Under the failed deal, Mopar workers would have topped out at about $22. However, Mopar workers hired in the future would top out at only $25 after an eight-year progression.

The deal includes no cap on hiring entry-level workers. The wage system benefits the company because it doesn't provide pensions for those workers, and their health care costs are lower.

The "clear path" to pay parity was one of two "missteps" Williams said leadership made when attempting to ratify the first deal. The other was not giving members more time to review the deal before voting.

"They're going to go at it in a thoughtful matter, where everybody gets a chance to view this agreement and everybody gets their questions answered."

Tier-one employees would receive a $4,000 up-front lump-sum bonus, two 3 percent general wage increases and two 4 percent lump sum bonuses. Bonuses and wage increases combined would generate gains of $20,000 for a typical production worker over the course of the four-year contract.

The profit-sharing formula has been tweaked from the first time around: The formula remains $800 for every 1 percent in North America profit margin generated. Gone is the upside bonus in which second-tier workers could earn up to $4,000 extra if profit margins were 10 percent or more.

"This deal, I think, has a really good chance of passing," said Ken Mefford, a veteran worker at the company's Warren Truck Plant. "Is it everything that everybody wanted? No, but you've got to be realistic."

Jobs and products

The latest tentative agreement does not give specifics on what vehicles would be introduced to various plants under a $5.3 billion product investment plan, but it does detail potential workforce changes.

Sterling Heights Assembly could potentially gain 1,751 workers, the agreement says, while Warren Truck faces a "potential workforce reduction" of 2,406.

Belvidere Assembly in Illinois could potentially gain 585 workers, according to the agreement. Indiana Transmission Plant I could see a potential increase of 220 jobs, while Indiana Transmission Plant II would see a potential reduction of 450. Tipton Transmission would see a potential increase of 403 workers.

The summary questions the long-term livelihood of Connor Assembly in Detroit, where the Dodge Viper SRT is produced. The summary says the sports car will be "built out" in 2017 and "no future product has yet been identified."

Workforce levels at other assembly plants would remain the same.

Before details of the first tentative agreement were disclosed, The Detroit News and other media outlets reported that the investment plan includes a product shuffle in which nearly all domestic car production would be moved to Mexico, and voids left on U.S. assembly lines would be filled with more-profitable SUVs.

Williams said moving cars to Mexico "was never discussed" with him: "I don't know who or how it happened where people really thought some vehicles were being pushed to Mexico," he said. "We do have products that have a lifecycle, and the company will have to go ahead and figure out what are the new products coming in and where they're going. But that's always true. That happens everywhere."

Looking ahead to GM, Ford

Parts of the Fiat Chrysler contract could be used for pattern agreements at General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co., according to Williams.

"There is pattern issues in here," he said, adding he will look at those areas over the weekend. "There are things that are also unique to FCA."

Williams did not signal which company the union plans to negotiate with next. Ford and GM have been waiting in the background since indefinitely extending their contracts Sept. 14 — the day the union's contracts with all the Detroit automakers were set to expire.

"We're continuing our discussions with the UAW in good faith to obtain an agreement that meets the needs of GM employees and the business," GM spokeswoman Katie McBride said Friday.

Ford said in a statement, "We look forward to negotiating a fair and competitive labor agreement that enables us to continue providing jobs and investment here in the U.S., and that ensures a prosperous future for the company, our employees and our communities."

Arthur R. Schwartz, president of Labor and Economics Associates, called the latest tentative agreement "expensive," and said he was surprised to see additional money for signing bonuses and entry-level workers.

But he believes it has enough new in it for members to give it the OK. Schwartz said it addresses many questions from members and provides a pathway to equal pay for entry-level workers. He had seen only a 50-50 chance of the first contract being ratified.

"I'd be surprised if this is not ratified," he said.


Second-tier workers

■Wages: Under the failed tentative contract, workers would have started at $17 an hour and top out at $25.35. Under the new contract, they would start at $17 an hour and top out at same wage as traditional workers — about $29 — after an eight-year grow-in period.

■Signing bonus: Unchanged from failed contract: $3,000.

■Profit sharing: Under failed deal, workers would have received $800 for every 1 percent of North American profit margins, plus up to $4,000 extra if margins were 10 percent or more. Under the new deal, workers would get $800 for every 1 percent of North American profit margin, but additional incentives were taken away.

■Health insurance: Vision and dental plans improved. $100 ER co-pay and $50 urgent care co-pay added.

First-tier workers

■Wages: Unchanged: Two 3 percent wage increases in first and third year, plus 4 percent lump-sum bonus in second and fourth years.

■Signing bonus: Increases to $4,000 from $3,000.

■Profit sharing: Unchanged from failed contract: $800 for every 1 percent of North American profit margin.

■Health care: Unchanged.

See New proposed FCA Tentative Contract Click here!


Mulcair, not Trudeau,
can beat Harper

Toronto Sun
Sid Ryan
October 11, 2015

Flash back to the final weeks of the federal election in May 2011. Election forecasters were prematurely dismissing a strong early surge from the NDP as a fluke, a flash-in-the-pan.

They sang this tune until mere days before Jack Layton led Canada's NDP through a stunning electoral upset that catapulted the party from 36 seats to an unprecedented 103 and cemented their status as the Official Opposition.

Fast forward to 2015 and it feels like déjà vu all over again.

We are now in the second last week of the longest election campaign since 1872 and the cynical pundits and pollsters are all too eagerly declaring Tom Mulcair's once-favoured parliamentary hopes a non-starter. Their predictably misguided conclusion was that Justin Trudeau is the only choice to stop Stephen Harper.

Despite a recent NDP dip in the polls, this fanciful argument makes less sense today than it did four years ago. Mulcair has only one job: to defeat Harper. Trudeau has two: he must first defeat Mulcair before landing any blows on Harper. It is more than a long-shot.

The polls this week continue to tell the story of a tight three-way race. That means that many voters who are fed up with Harper's track record will spend the next few days being lobbied to choose between "voting with their heart or voting with their head."

However, progressive voters need not accept this false dichotomy.

Mulcair's NDP is both the sincere and the strategic vote. Here's why:

Trudeau has proven that he lacks the moral fortitude to make tough decisions. He waffled on Canadian civil rights when Harper tabled the draconian Bill C-51 and he caved to the oil and gas lobby when he supported the Keystone XL Pipeline that will cost Canada 40,000 refinery jobs. Mulcair, on the other hand, is running on principled and progressive platform that protects Canadian jobs, defends the environment and boasts major new social programs for pharmacare and childcare.

The NDP path to government cuts through 35 Conservative-held ridings, a number of which are right here in "Battleground Ontario". Trudeau, on the other hand, needs 100 more seats to do the same.

However, Trudeau's electoral hopes are staked on stealing seats from Mulcair, not Harper. That means that Trudeau has neither the math nor the moxie to carry the Stop Harper banner to victory.

Mulcair is free to ignore petty turf wars with Liberals to focus on challenging Harper on important matters of principle. After all, almost everywhere west of Sudbury, this election will be determined by strongly contested Blue-Orange races, where Liberals aren't even in the running.

The ace that Mulcair pulled out of his sleeve this week was his principled opposition to Harper's secret, and some have said illegal, international trade deal, the Trans Provincial Partnership (TPP). While Trudeau reacted to the secret pact with signature equivocation, Mulcair channeled the outrage of Canadians by standing up for jobs, farms and industry.

Anyone working in the manufacturing basin of Southwestern Ontario and the agricultural heartlands of Québec and the Prairies can find a true champion in Mulcair, who is the only leader willing to stop Harper from exporting 20,000 Canadian auto manufacturing jobs and thousands of others in the agricultural and pharmaceutical sectors.

This will be a powerful motivator at the ballot box on Oct. 19 and it is one of the many concrete examples that differentiate the NDP from the often-indistinguishable story presented by Liberals and Tories alike.

No matter how you parse the numbers, a vote for the NDP isn't just the strongest vote against Harper, it is a vote against cynicism and it is the best choice for a better Canada.


UAW-FCA deal sets $29 top
wage for entry-level workers

Michael Wayland,
The Detroit News
October 10, 2015

Under a new tentative deal between the United Auto Workers and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, entry-level workers will receive a substantial increase in their top wage.

Second-tier workers — now known as "in-progression" — would earn as much as $29 an hour with the proposed deal, up from $25.35 an hour under the previous rejected contract, according to a source familiar with the situation who is not authorized to speak on record because the union hasn't briefed workers on the tentative deal.

Details of the contract are scheduled to be made public Friday, after union leaders from across the country gather in Warren to discuss and vote on the new deal, which was reached before an 11:59 p.m. strike deadline Wednesday, a week after 65 percent of membership rejected the first contract.

The top wage for the newer workers would be roughly $10 an hour more than the $19.28 ceiling that entry-level workers make under the 2011-15 deal.

The source also said the wage increase and bonuses for veteran, or tier-one, workers would remain the same from the first tentative deal. Those workers would receive 3 percent wage increases in the first and third years, with 4 percent lump-sum payments in the second and fourth years of the contract, as well as $3,000 signing bonuses.

Profit-sharing under the new contract also would be tweaked. Under the failed deal, entry-level workers would have received additional money if North American profit margins exceeded 8 percent. Under the new deal, all workers would receive the same annual profit-sharing checks.

It is unclear whether the same pay scale would extend to second-tier workers at axle and Mopar facilities. Under the failed deal, there would have been essentially four wage, or classification, systems: veteran workers at about $30 an hour after raises; tier-two workers topping out at $25.35 an hour; and Mopar and axle operators topping out at $22 and $22.35, respectively.

Spokespeople with the union and automaker declined to comment on the new contract. The union on social media Thursday afternoon described news reports about the new deal as "incomplete."

"Your UAW FCA National Bargaining Committee focused on your priorities to address pay, health care and job security," the union said. "Full details will be made immediately available if the UAW National Chrysler Council votes to send the agreement to you, the membership, for ratification tomorrow."

Friday's meeting of union leaders in Warren comes exactly two weeks after leadership met for the first deal, at which UAW President Dennis Williams said he believed the 40,000 members in Fiat Chrysler shops would OK the contract.

Williams early Thursday morning said the new deal "makes real gains" and "addresses members' principal concerns about their jobs and their futures.

The top wage increases, which were first reported by Bloomberg News, arguably "bridge the gap" between the two tiers of workers for hourly wages, but are expected to allow the company to save money because they don't have to provide pensions. In addition, health care costs are lower for newer workers.

Bringing the pay of entry-level workers closer to veteran workers — who now make about $28 an hour — was a key demand voiced by members after the first deal was knocked down. Neither of the deals caps the number of people the company can hire as entry-level workers.

Appeasing second-tier workers was particularly important for Fiat Chrysler, which has 45 percent entry-level workers, the highest among the Detroit automakers. General Motors Co. has 21 percent. Ford Motor Co. is at 28 percent.

Kristin Dziczek, Center for Automotive Research director of the Industry & Labor Group, said the two-tier pay system was "just one little piece of a big puzzle" that the union needed to address in a new deal.

There were other reasons members said they opposed the first deal: It didn't address alternative work schedules enough. Some argued the classification system created a "third-tier." It did not fully explain a new health care co-op. And it failed to detail $5.3 billion in plant investments that reportedly would move nearly all car production to Mexico in exchange for more profitable pickups and SUVs built in the United States.

Union leaders have continually pledged to clarify and address key concerns raised by members following the first deal's rejection.

Costell McIntosh, an entry-level worker at Sterling Stamping since 2010, said he supports the $29-an-hour wage progression but is waiting for all details of the agreement to be released until deciding how he will vote.

"That's nothing to complain about in this day and age," he said. "You have to be realistic. You have to make progress in increments."

A proposed health care co-op in the failed deal — which had been touted as a way to save costs by pooling all workers at the three Detroit automakers — was deleted from new pact.

The latest deal, like the rejected one, does not commit to significantly changing alternative work schedules that include shifts of 10 hours or more. The highlighter says the company and union would meet within 60 days following the contract's ratification "to consider other alternative work schedules."

Union and company negotiators for General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. have been waiting in the wings since the UAW announced Sept. 13 that Fiat Chrysler was the "target" company for bargaining. Both automakers indefinitely extended their contracts on Sept. 14, the day they expired.


Canadian government omits
key detail of TPP deal
affecting auto sector

Steven Chase
Globe and Mail
October 9, 2015

The Canadian government has omitted a detail from its public explanation of what would change for this country's vital auto sector under the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

And pressure is building on Ottawa to release the full text of this massive Pacific Rim deal before voters cast their ballots in 11 days.

International Trade Minister Ed Fast is pledging to make it public in a matter of days.

It turns out, however, that, contrary to what government documents and Prime Minister Stephen Harper have said, the local content requirements for some auto components under the TPP deal are lower than advertised.

This is important because the agreement reached this week in Atlanta among Canada and 11 other Pacific Rim countries would eliminate Canadian tariffs on Japanese vehicles and make it easier for manufacturers to use offshore parts in cars. It would be a boon for low-wage Asian suppliers but a challenge for Canadian firms.

Summaries of the deal from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and Mr. Harper himself, have focused on the fact that local content requirements will be 40 per cent and 45 per cent for vehicle components.

"Just in terms of thresholds, we are no lower than 40 [per cent] on anything and 45 [per cent] on most, which is a considerable improvement over an earlier understanding between a couple of other partners," Mr. Harper said at a news conference on Oct. 5.

However, some components will have local content thresholds as low as 35 per cent. This means 65 per cent of the content could come from countries outside the TPP.

Mr. Fast's office defended the government's explanations, saying they focus on the components that Canadian firms produce in large quantities.

"It does go as low as 35 [per cent], but they are not key Canadian parts," spokesman Rick Roth said. "Canada's TPP autos outcome is extremely strong in all areas."

He said details on precisely which categories of auto parts will fall into which local content rule will be released with the text of the deal.

Mr. Roth said the eight categories of auto parts listed as priority areas by Canadian industry are covered by the higher thresholds. He said the 35 per cent category is still better than the 30 per cent that Japan and the U.S. had originally planned for the TPP.

"The outcome Canada negotiated, with inputs from the parts industry, ensures most key Canadian parts are at 45 [per cent], with others at 40. Those facts are what we've communicated."

He said details on precisely which categories of auto parts will be affected will come out with the text of the deal.

This means it is not possible to yet verify whether the categories of components in which the most offshore content would be allowed actually are made in large quantities in Canada.

A Nanos research poll suggests Canadians have concerns about the deal. Three-quarters of respondents were worried about the impact on the dairy and automotive industries, a new survey said.

Forty-seven per cent said they were not or somewhat not confident in the job done by the federal government in negotiating the TPP. Forty-two per cent said they were confident or somewhat confident that Canada's interests were looked after.

A full 73 per cent of respondents said it would be important or somewhat important to them if the deal had a negative impact on dairy farmers. Twenty-four per cent disagreed. The Conservative government has agreed to pay dairy farmers a combined $4.3-billion in compensation for losses from the TPP and European trade deals.

Canadians were equally supportive of the auto sector, with 75 per cent worrying about the impact, and 23 per cent saying it was not important.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, who opposes the Pacific Rim deal and is trying to rally anti-TPP voters behind him, appears emboldened now that a major U.S. political figure is also against it.

Hillary Clinton, the former first lady who wants to return to the Oval Office as president, tried to give her faltering campaign a boost on Wednesday by breaking with President Barack Obama and rejecting the TPP.

"As of today, I am not in favour of what I have learned about it," said Ms. Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Said Mr. Mulcair: "I welcome news that Hillary Clinton has joined other senior Democrats in the United States in opposing this bad deal. It is now clearer than ever that we don't have to accept Stephen Harper's TPP. A better deal is possible – if we're willing to stand up and fight for it."

Major U.S. business leaders and lobby groups are also withholding their applause, saying they want to wait until they see the text.

Matt Schewel, a reporter for Inside U.S. Trade, which tracks the TPP closely, singled out Canada as the country among the 12 nations negotiating that has divulged the most so far.

"Which TPP government has released the most details of the agreement thus far? My vote goes to Canada," he wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

Questions remain about whether the deal would accelerate the trend of auto investment bypassing Canada in favour of Mexico and the southern United States.

The agreement replaces the North American free-trade agreement and its requirement that vehicles sold in North America contain at least 62.5 per cent content from the three countries with a new requirement that cars and trucks can be sold tariff-free in all 12 TPP countries with just 45 per cent content from those 12 countries.

The rules differ for parts, with that same 45-per-cent level required to be considered duty-free for some parts and 40 per cent for others. Included in the 45-per-cent or 40-per-cent levels are engines, transmissions, chassis components, bumper systems and suspensions, sources said. A third set of parts can be considered originating in TPP countries with just 35 per cent TPP content.


Retirees Food Drive
Councillor Doug Whillans and Jeff Bowman Donate food to the Knights Table

The Retirees raised 1000 lbs of food & $100 - Thanks to all that donated


UAW, Fiat Chrysler avoid
strike; reach tentative deal

Michael Wayland,
Michael Martinez
Melissa Burden,
The Detroit News
October 8, 2015

The United Auto Workers and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles avoided a potential strike by reaching a new tentative contract before a Wednesday night deadline.

No details were released about the deal, which the union says "secured significant gains." The agreement was announced roughly 36 hours after the union imposed the 11:59 p.m. Wednesday strike deadline and a week after 65 percent of union members voted against the first tentative deal.

"We heard from our members, and went back to FCA to strengthen their contract," UAW President Dennis Williams said in a statement early Thursday morning, minutes after the strike deadline passed. "We've reached a proposed tentative agreement that I believe addresses our members' principal concerns about their jobs and their futures. We have made real gains and I look forward to a full discussion of the terms with our membership."

Fiat Chrysler confirmed the deal passed, minutes after the union announced the deal on factory floors and through social media. The company declined to discuss details of the new agreement, saying it "cannot discuss the specifics of the agreement pending a vote by UAW members."

Many workers who talked to The Detroit News said they were happy that a strike was averted. It would have been the first strike for a Detroit automaker since 2007.

"I was relieved – I think a lot of people are," said Craig Harper, a skilled tradesman at Warren Truck Plant, as he left the facility after the announcement. "I didn't want to strike."

The deal, according to the union, was reached after "a lengthy bargaining process." The UAW Chrysler Council – made up of local leadership across the country –will meet at 11 a.m. Friday in Detroit to discuss and vote on the agreement. Then, it's once again up to the 40,000 rank-and-file members at Fiat Chrysler to decide if it's satisfactory.

Ken Mefford, a 20-year veteran worker at Warren Truck, said avoiding a strike was a relief. But he hopes negotiators didn't just repackage the failed deal.

"It's great that were not going on strike, but if it's the same deal as before we could be going through this all over again," he said. "The devil's in the detail."

After the first deal was rejected, industry analysts speculated that negotiators would have to prepare an entirely new deal instead of patching holes in the initial failed contract.

"I anxiously await details to see how it comes out," Kristin Dziczek, Center for Automotive Research director of the Industry & Labor Group, said early Thursday morning. "I hope it's enough to meet the members' expectations."

Included in the tentative agreement voted down was a $3,000 signing bonus that was $500 less than the last contract; a 3 percent pay raise for legacy workers in the first and third years of the contract; and increases to wages of entry-level workers, who would have started at $17 an hour, up about $1.

Entry-level workers could have seen their top wage increase to $25.35, up from $19.28. The deal also included better profit-sharing based on North American profit margins.

Members say they opposed the first deal for various reasons: It failed to eliminate a tier-two wage structure that has divided workers. It did not fully explain a new health care co-op. And it failed to detail $5.3 billion in plant investments that reportedly would move nearly all car production to Mexico in exchange for more profitable pickups and SUVs built in the United States.

Many workers also voiced concern over a lack of communication during negotiations between the union and automaker – a problem the union has tried to correct with a number of updates this week, including blunt, to-the-point statements from Williams and UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell.

By the time leadership meets Friday, the union will have compiled a summary of the contract known as a "highlighter." Many workers and industry analysts criticized the highlighter for the failed agreement, saying it wasn't clear and lacked details about certain issues.

The union's contract with Fiat Chrysler and its crosstown rivals General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. expired on Sept. 14.

Both GM and Ford indefinitely extended their contracts, as the union focused on Fiat Chrysler and announced the first tentative deal Sept. 15.

After the first deal with Fiat Chrysler was rejected, the union could have shifted its bargaining focus to one of the other automakers but decided to resume the talks late last week.


Harper pledges $1 billion to
help auto sector after TPP deal

Conservative leader says automakers would have
been worse off if Canada had not signed onto the trade deal.

Toronto Star
Les Whittington
Oct 07 2015

OTTAWA—Conservative Leader Stephen Harper promised long-term funding to help the auto industry adjust to the newly-signed Pacific Rim trade deal and said automakers would have been worse off if Canada had not signed the 12-nation pact.

"We believe that this deal offers enormous benefits for the automobile sector," Harper said at a manufacturing facility that serves the auto industry in Whitby.

"In fact, I would go to the other extreme, which is if we were outside this deal, that would be devastating to the sector," he said.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which came together in negotiations over the weekend, was largely driven by the United States.

The free-trade deal involving Japan and other Asian countries marks a significant shift in U.S. trade interests to Asia.

The trade pact supercedes NAFTA, which was the latest in a series of free-trade arrangements between Canada and the U.S., which, for decades, helped Canadian manufacturers, particularly automakers, prosper by ensuring special access to the American market.

Unifor, the union representing autoworkers, said the concessions on auto trade offered by the Harper government in the recent negotiations will cost 20,000 jobs in Canada.

"This is recognition that they threw the auto industry under the bus under the TPP deal," Unifor President Jerry Dias told CBC-TV.

But Harper said Canada's vehicle manufacturers would be in trouble if Canada were not part of a free-trade pact involving the U.S.

"The long-term survival of this sector depends on the attraction of continental and world mandates for production in this country," he told the media. "And, if we are not part of the trade network that our partners in the United States, in particular, and Mexico are, we would simply, in the long term, be putting ourselves outside of those opportunities."

If re-elected, the Conservatives would provide $1 billion over 10 years beginning in 2018, when a current Automotive Innovation Fund expires, to help the auto industry deal with the reduction of protective tariffs under the TPP.

Harper faced questions Tuesday about why the auto sector is getting less money than dairy farmers.

"Look, it's always a matter of, 'How much?', " Harper said, a day after he announced the federal cabinet had already approved a 15-year, $4.3-billion fund to protect the dairy industry.

"We want these benefits to, ultimately, be of significant net benefit to the Canadian economy. We don't want it to be all taxpayers doing it," he said, explaining why his government wasn't spending more to bolster vehicle manufacturing.

Harper stressed that it would be unfair to compare the supply-management sector of dairy with the export-oriented auto business.

Under the program announced Tuesday, grants would be offered to companies that make firm commitments to build new auto-assembly plants.

"The programs we have here are not compensation programs," Harper said. "They are incentive programs to attract this kind of investment into the sector and keep this kind of investment in the sector."

But as Harper lauded the merits of the TPP, resentment simmered outside; about two dozen auto workers from the nearby GM assembly plant in Oshawa protested.

Under the tentative trade agreement, a 6.1-per-cent levy on auto imports would be phased out over five years. Cars would be allowed into Canada without tariffs as long as they have 45 per cent content from the TPP, which is lower than the threshold of 62.5 per cent under NAFTA.


Fate of Canada's
auto industry unclear
as TPP eases Japanese
import costs

Greg Keenan
Globe and Mail
Oct 6, 2015

Japan-based auto makers have been lobbying for more than two decades for the elimination of Canada's tariff on vehicles imported from outside North America. They finally got their wish Monday.

The 6.1-per-cent levy will be phased out over five years if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement is ratified, providing a level playing field for Japanese auto makers with competitors from South Korea and Europe.

Whether that reduction will flow through to vehicle prices – so that Canadian consumers benefit from the trade deal – is a question the auto makers that sell vehicles in Canada refused to respond to or delayed answering pending further study of the deal.

The exception was Honda Canada Inc., which said it imports only about 200 vehicles a year from Japan so the tariff reduction would have little or no impact.

But the bigger question is the impact the deal will have on Canada's auto parts industry and whether it will accelerate the trend of auto investment bypassing Canada in favour of Mexico and the southern United States.

The agreement replaces the North American free-trade agreement and its requirement that vehicles sold in North America contain at least 62.5-per-cent content from the three countries with a new requirement that cars and trucks can be sold tariff-free in all 12 TPP countries with just 45-per-cent content from those countries.

The rules differ for parts, with that same 45-per-cent level required to be considered duty-free for some parts and 40 per cent for other components. Included in the 45-per-cent or 40-per-cent levels are engines, transmissions, chassis components, bumper systems and suspensions, sources said. A third set of parts can be considered originating in TPP countries with just 35-per-cent TPP content.

Those numbers are an improvement on the 30-per-cent numbers the industry was staring at after meetings this summer in Hawaii.

And they're good for large multinational companies that have easy access to capital, such as Linamar Corp., c. and Martinrea International Inc.

"On the other hand, small and medium-sized suppliers to Canada's vehicle assembly supply chain will face new competitive pressure from large, multinational firms from TPP countries and further abroad," Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association of Canada, said in a statement Monday.

Some smaller companies that are relying on the low value of the Canadian dollar to stay afloat will be swamped by competition from low-cost countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam, one senior industry executive said.

Other industry sources believe auto makers from Japan that are not located in Canada now will have even less incentive to invest here if their cars can enter duty-free and if they can obtain low-cost parts from China or other countries that can then become part of Japan-made engines or transmissions.

Subaru Canada Inc., for example, imported 72 per cent of the vehicles it sold in Canada in the first nine months of the year from Japan and stands to benefit most among the Japanese companies from the tariff elimination.

The Japanese companies were beginning to increase their investments in new engine and transmission plants in North America, but the deal likely means they will be able to import those components instead of building them on this continent, said industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc.

"Did they bargain away the next [engine or transmission] plant?" Mr. DesRosiers asked.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters that during the next few days he will announce measures to help maintain vehicle assembly in Canada and attract new investment.

But industry officials expressed doubt about whether the federal government can help persuade General Motors Co. find new products for its Oshawa, Ont., assembly plants or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV to keep its endangered assembly plant in Brampton, Ont., open.

"I don't think our government understands what it takes to win these things," said a senior executive from a Canadian parts maker. "I think it's unpalatable to them."

The Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association, whose members consist of the Canadian units of Chrysler, GM and Ford Motor Co., said it is concerned about the five-year phaseout of the 6.1-per-cent tariff. That's a shorter time frame than the U.S. elimination of a 2.5-per-cent tariff on Japanese passenger cars over 25 years and the 30 years it will take to end the 25-per-cent U.S. tariff on light trucks.

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association of Canada said the fact that the tariff levels are different means the Canadian phaseout does not need to occur over the same period as the United States.

Unifor, the union that represents workers at the Canadian units of the Detroit Three auto makers, said the deal puts 20,000 auto jobs in Canada at risk.


UAW pledges new approach
to members for FCA deal

Michael Wayland,
The Detroit News
October 6, 2015

United Auto Workers leaders are promising to handle a second round of contract talks with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV differently than the first discussions that culminated with membership overwhelmingly voting down a tentative four-year deal.

In separate messages published online Monday, UAW President Dennis Williams and Vice President Norwood Jewell said they will not only address members' issues with the contract itself, but communicate better with updates between leadership and the 40,000 rank-and-file with Fiat Chrysler.

"Our responsibility is to you, the membership," Williams said in a message to employees Sunday that was posted online Monday morning. "We are going to continue to bargain on your behalf. We are also going to tell the whole story. This is a very serious situation. I ask that you get the facts as we continue to address your issues."

Both messages were blunt and encouraged members to not be influenced by outside influences and get their information from UAW.org or the union's official Facebook page.

"This would have been good to do two weeks ago," said Kristin Dziczek, Center for Automotive Research director of Industry & Labor Group. "There's greater explanation in this letter than the membership have had in print prior to this."

Jewell's message — published Monday afternoon — promised that updates on negotiations would be published "as they become available," which would be a significant change from leadership asking membership to be patient and wait until a tentative contract was reached.

"Your voice was clear and we have headed back to address the issues that were raised," he said in the statement Monday afternoon. "It is encouraging when so many others say unions are not relevant, that our UAW-FCA membership sees it differently."

Jewell said more than 80 percent, or 32,000, of the union's 40,000 members with Fiat Chrysler participated in the first contract ratification process. Sixty-five percent of members voted against the deal.

Aside from communication, many Fiat Chrysler workers had voiced displeasure with terms of the proposed deal, saying it does not eliminate the two-tier pay system, fails to cap entry-level hires, doesn't do enough to address alternative work schedules and doesn't increase wages enough.

"You have spoken and we heard you. We have been listening to your issues and concerns through your local union leadership," Williams said. "We have real challenges. We all know that without investment and product there is no true job security.

"For someone to suggest we endorse products going to Mexico is just nonsense. We have been fighting NAFTA and other trade agreements every day and are still fighting."

The statement regarding Mexico is in reference to a $5.3 billion investment plan under the failed deal that included moving most of the automaker's car production to Mexico in exchange for more profitable SUVs, pickups and crossovers.

Neither the union nor company have confirmed the product moves, which includes moving production of two cars to Mexico — the Chrysler 200 currently built at Sterling Heights Assembly, and the Dodge Dart currently built at Belvidere. In return, Sterling Heights would get the Ram 1500 pickup from Warren Truck, and Warren would get the Jeep Wagoneer — a three-row SUV that isn't due until at least 2018.

Williams' message goes on to say that the proposed health care co-op is not like the Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association for retirees; that "outside groups like to stir people up"; and that union leadership is fighting for its membership.

"We met with the UAW-FCA local union leadership at great length and are fighting to address your issues taking everything into consideration with all the challenges," Williams said.

The update comes days after The Detroit News and other news media reported that the union would like to return to Fiat Chrysler rather than immediately striking or moving on to Ford Motor Co. or General Motors Co. All remain options, depending on how the talks go.

A Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman on Monday confirmed that the automaker is "talking" with the union but would not elaborate on details. Following the first deal's rejection, the company issued a lengthy statement saying it was "disappointed" by the outcome of the voting but looked "forward to continuing dialogue with the UAW."

Williams previously played down the contract rejection — the first since 1982 with Chrysler workers — as "part of the process" that the union prides itself on.


Trans-Pacific trade deal
reached after marathon talks

Alexander Panetta,
The Canadian Press
Oct 5, 2015

Twelve countries, including Canada, have agreed to create the world's largest regional trade zone.

After five days of marathon, around-the-clock negotiations, a deal has been reached to create the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would cover 40 per cent of the world's economy.

The proposed agreement reduces or eliminates barriers in a wide range of sectors and could lead to more Canadian exports of pork, beef, canola, high-tech machinery and a variety of other products.

It also entrenches new international trade standards in Asia, setting a template should any other countries in that fast-growing region – like China – want to join someday.

Other parts will be controversial in Canada. Cars will be allowed without tariffs, as long as they have 45-per-cent content from the TPP region — lower than the 62.5 per cent regional-content provision under NAFTA.

Canada's protected dairy sector remains mostly intact, with a modest increase in permitted imports for supply-managed sectors. Farmers will be compensated for losses through a multibillion-dollar series of programs.

The deal needs to be ratified in national parliaments – and the NDP's recent opposition to the TPP process is an early example of the political challenges in could face, in several countries.

But voters can't yet see the fine print. The actual text of the deal is undergoing a legal review, and it's not clear when it will be available.


Stakes high after UAW workers
reject Fiat Chrysler deal

Michael Wayland and
Melissa Burden,
The Detroit News
October 5, 2015

The rejection by United Auto Workers members of a tentative contract with Fiat Chrysler for the first time in a generation is pushing leaders of both sides down an unpredictable road that doesn't guarantee a better deal for the union's 40,000 members.

Although the union had not released a final tally of national voting numbers late Wednesday, an overwhelming rejection of the contract by Belvidere Assembly workers cemented its defeat, according to an analysis of results by The Detroit News.

A return to the bargaining table could mean contentious talks between the same negotiating committees that had been able to reach the initial deal. The rejection could lead to union strike actions. Fiat Chrysler could threaten to move production of future cars and trucks outside the United States if the UAW is unwilling to bend

"They're playing Russian roulette with the wrong guy. (Fiat Chrysler CEO) Sergio Marchionne is too much of a gunslinger," said Art Wheaton, labor expert with the Worker Institute at Cornell University.

"He'll play it by ear and he'll do what he wants. He's playing with a global chessboard, and the UAW doesn't have that capability."

The Chrysler Council, which includes local union presidents and bargaining chairs from across the country, is expected to meet in Warren on Thursday to decide its next moves.

"They're not going to take this agreement back (to members)," said Kristin Dziczek, Center for Automotive Research director of the Industry & Labor Group. "I don't think they can repackage this and salvage it in any kind of way without going back to the table and getting a new tentative agreement."

Neither the union nor Fiat Chrysler would comment on the meeting, which comes a day after final national votes were cast at Warren Stamping and Belvidere Assembly. At Belvidere, 65 percent of production workers said "no," as did 70 percent of skilled trades workers. Warren Stamping numbers weren't available late Wednesday. It was the first rejection by Chrysler workers since 1982.

Workers and industry officials have said that high expectations, lack of communication and mistrust led to the rejection, and aren't going to be easy to overcome.

UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell, head of the union's Chrysler department, told The News on Sunday: "It won't be the first time. I've watched other contracts get turned down. You sit down, listen to the membership and try to figure out is it just misunderstandings … and then go back to the drawing board."

Strike is 'big weapon'

The likelihood of a local or national strike for the union against Fiat Chrysler significantly increased following rejection.

"It looks very grim for Fiat Chrysler because I think the membership are way out in left field thinking they were going to get a terrific, great improvement by going out on strike," Wheaton said, the labor expert from Cornell.

Many union members have been agitating for a strike, almost since negotiations began. This is for the first time since the 2007 talks that workers at Fiat Chrysler and General Motors Co. have the ability to strike; the UAW gave up that right for the 2011 talks as a condition of GM and Chrysler's government bailouts.

Strikes typically are a last resort, but can be used tactically to satisfy expectations that union leaders put pressure on automakers.

"The strike is the big weapon here, and it puts pressure on both sides," Dziczek said. "The members are feeling pressure in their pocketbooks, and the company is feeling pressure on not having production running of the line and not getting any money from that."

A strike could come about in more than one way. The union could call a national strike or target one plant that, if prolonged, would cause a ripple effect on production and cripple operations across a company. That helps the UAW limit strike benefits it would need to pay.

Local unions also could go to UAW leaders and request a strike over local agreements, which was the case for the two Flint plants in 1998. Local plant contracts are negotiated separately from the national contract.

Arthur R. Schwartz, head of the Ann Arbor-based Labor and Economic Associates consultancy firm, doubts the UAW would strike Fiat Chrysler without at least trying to re-bargain.

To get a deal passed, the UAW will have to do a much better job selling the agreement, particularly explaining the proposed health care co-op to members — and why the union agreed to changes to the tier-two pay structure but no cap, Schwartz said.

The two-tier system was particularly contentious for workers like Kenneth McCarthey Jr., who was hired into Toledo Assembly in 2013 at a lower pay scale than senior workers. "I think we should all get paid equal," he said.

Threats of a strike against Ford Motor Co. already have been raised over dissatisfaction with a local contract at the Kansas City Assembly Plant. That plant produces the money-making Ford F-150. UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles said Tuesday that he received approval from the international union for a strike at the plant by Local 249. The Dearborn automaker was given until Sunday to reach a tentative local contract with the Kansas City local.

In an update to members, Settles appeared to distance himself from Fiat Chrysler negotiations.

"Many aspects of FCA's current agreement are different than the agreement we currently have with Ford, such as attendance policy, work schedules, vacation language, discipline, job security, apprenticeship testing and progression of entry-level to legacy pay rates, to name a few," he said.

"In addition, there have been instances in the past where Ford, FCA and GM have even had differing pay scales and rates."

GM, Ford wait

Industry insiders expect negotiators with the UAW and Fiat Chrysler to return to the negotiating table rather than move on to GM or Ford, which both indefinitely extended their current contracts with the union Sept. 14.

"Usually, when you shake hands with someone and reach an agreement and can't execute it, you at least give them the chance to do it again," said Schwartz, a longtime labor-relations executive with GM.

UAW members at GM and Ford are anxiously watching Fiat Chrysler. UAW President Dennis Williams has indicated he would seek more with GM and Ford because they are more profitable.

On its Facebook page, UAW Local 651, which represents GM's Davison Road Processing Center in Burton, asked members for patience: "While we wait for a tentative agreement, try to keep your mind open and not speculate. Be patient, wait till you have the facts.

"We cannot afford to undermine the bargaining process and the best thing we can do is act and be together and fully support our national bargaining team."


(313) 222-2504

Sticking points

Fiat Chrysler workers voiced various reasons they disliked the tentative contract:

■No end to two-tier pay system

■No guarantees of new jobs and lack of specifics on product changes

■Failure to explain proposed healthcare co-op

■No cap on the number of two-tier workers

■No elimination of alternate work schedules

■Changes to attendance policy

■Smaller ratification bonus than in 2011

■Lack of rewards for retirees


Trans-Pacific Partnership deal could be near after auto compromise

Negotiator have reportedly reached
agreement on rules governing auto
sales and production; Canadian union
bosses fear for members’ jobs

Les Whittington
Ottawa Bureau
Oct 4, 2015

OTTAWA—Negotiators from Canada and other countries trying to hammer out a Pacific Rim trade deal in Atlanta appear to be inching closer toward an agreement after a compromise on auto trade, a key sticking point for Canada in the high-stakes talks.

The agreement on autos, which could cause an upheaval in auto manufacturing in Ontario, fuelled expectations that a pact to create the 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was within reach after years of gruelling horse-trading.

Talks were expected to continue Saturday, with a press conference scheduled in the afternoon.

Details remained scarce at the closed-door negotiations. However, the Japan Times reported Canada, Mexico, Japan and the U.S. had overcome differences on so-called rules of origin governing whether vehicles can be exported within the trade zone without duties.

“We are making good progress in trying to conclude those negotiations,” International Trade Minister Ed Fast, who is taking part in the talks, told reporters Friday.

“There’s still some work left to be done. But we’re optimistic that issue can be solved and we’ll have an outcome that will support our Canadian auto sector and ensure its long-term viability in Canada.”

Under TPP rules, member countries would be allowed duty-free export of cars within the TPP even if the cars have a lower percentage of domestic parts than is the case under the North American Free-Trade Agreement.

Some auto parts producers have said the TPP will provide valuable access to Asian markets. But Unifor, which represents autoworkers, says the deal would allow Japan to source parts for cars being exported to North America from low-wage countries, such as China, to the disadvantage of Canadian vehicle-makers. Up to 26,000 jobs could disappear in Canada as a result, the union estimates.

All indications are that a TPP deal, if reached, would stir controversy on a range of issues. Those include drug costs, farming and measures allowing corporations to sue governments if they have interfered with a business’s ability to operate profitably.

Measures in the TPP would entrench patent protection rights for pharmaceutical companies by effectively slowing the creation of cheaper generic copies and possibly barring governments from buying pharmaceuticals in bulk to reduce costs. Some of the would-be TPP members were still haggling Friday over a separate drug issue — monopoly protections for developers of new biologic drugs.

The U.S., Australia and New Zealand have been pushing for greater access within the TPP to protected agricultural markets. As a result, Ontario and other provincial governments are concerned the TPP will open the dairy sector here to more imports and undermine the system of supply management.

Cabinet ministers from Liberal governments in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were in Atlanta earlier this week to press federal negotiators against opening the dairy sector to foreign competition.

The federal government has promised to maintain the supply-management system but isn’t ruling out more imports. That was underscored this week when the outgoing agriculture minister, Gerry Ritz, hinted at possible compensation for farmers whose livelihoods are impacted by changes in Canada’s agricultural protections.

Or as Ontario Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal told CBC-TV: “If we have a balanced trade deal that respects and maintains the integrity of the supply management system and provides market access to those commodities not covered by supply management, there should be no need for compensation.”

The timing of the TPP talks has made the negotiations an issue in the Oct. 19 election campaign. If an agreement in principle is reached, Conservative leader Stephen Harper will play it up as part of his economic strategy.

But voters are unlikely to have a great deal of detail about the massive TPP pact before they go to the polls.

“It will be impossible to have a reasoned and fair debate about this before the election, because the government has control of all the information,” said Scott Sinclair of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“The most we might see is a kind of summary of what’s in the deal but not the text itself. And it will be difficult but not impossible, depending on the outcome of the election, to revisit some of these issues after Oct. 19.”


UAW plans to meet
with Fiat Chrysler

Michael Martinez,
Melissa Burden and
Michael Wayland,
The Detroit News
October 3, 2015

The United Auto Workers plans to meet with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV to discuss why 65 percent of members rejected the first tentative labor contract reached last month, according to a union memo that reiterates what President Dennis Williams said Thursday.

The union’s statement Thursday indicated the UAW would return to Fiat Chrysler for further discussions. Fiat Chrysler in its statement said that while it was disappointed that membership did not ratify what it called a “transformational agreement,” it looked “forward to continuing a dialogue with the UAW.”

UAW leaders, including the UAW-Fiat Chrysler national bargaining committee and council, met for five-and-a-half hours Thursday in Warren to discuss why membership failed to ratify the deal, and what the union’s next move should be. No decision was announced following the meeting.

A UAW spokesman and a Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman declined to comment Friday on if the two sides were meeting again, or had anything scheduled.

But industry insiders expect the two sides to return to the bargaining table to try to hammer out a new agreement that members will ratify. Labor experts say it remains a possibility that a strike at Fiat Chrysler could occur, or that the union could shift its focus to Ford Motor Co. or General Motors Co.

A majority of FCA’s 40,000 union workers voted down the deal and voiced displeasure that it didn’t eliminate the two pay tiers, didn’t do enough for retirees and didn’t include enough details about a proposed healthcare co-op and product allocations.

In the memo dated Thursday from union leadership at UAW Local 1700 that was provided to The Detroit News, leadership shared 13 of their members’ major concerns with the deal. Those included the fact there was no cap on the number of second-tier workers. Local 1700 represents workers at FCA’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant.

“Our members felt they were lied to regarding the cap, and that there were other things in the contract that possibly were not disclosed to them,” the memo read. Workers expected a 25 percent cap would be instituted at the end of the expiring deal; the tentative agreement did not include a cap.

FCA has the highest percentage of second-tier workers at about 45 percent.

Sterling Heights members’ other concerns included a “too rigid” attendance policy, and a failure to bring back the cost of living allowance.

The Detroit Free Press first reported the contents of the internal Local 1700 memo.

Meanwhile, workers at Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant could strike at 1 p.m. Sunday if the union and automaker are unable to come to an agreement on a local labor deal. Kansas City and Dearborn Truck both make the profitable and best-selling F-150. Union local leaders have said the two sides are at an impasse on a number of issues related to plant safety, seniority and manpower.

UAW Local 249, which represents workers at the Missouri plant, posted a notice to members Thursday on social media saying a “Super Sunday” overtime shift had been canceled.

On Friday, UAW chairman Nick Kottalis at Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant confirmed it will run overtime shifts Saturday and Sunday, but said those shifts had been planned for some time.

Todd Hillyard, chairman at the Missouri plant, wrote on Facebook on Friday that the overtime moves were due to the impending strike. “Given the situation at (Kansas City), production was sent to keep (Dearborn Truck) running and it is within the company’s right to do so,” he wrote. “National Ford Dept. had nothing to do with it.”

Ford in a statement said: “We work every day to avoid a disruption of our production, and we are confident we will be able to negotiate a fair and competitive labor agreement with our UAW partners.”

GM and Ford continue to await signals of when they will become the focus of the UAW at the bargaining table. The two automakers are operating under an indefinite extension on the previous contracts which expired Sept. 14.

Johnny Pruitte, president of UAW Local 276 that represents GM workers at the company’s Arlington Assembly Plant in Texas, said Friday he has not been able to answer all members’ questions on what is happening in Detroit. But he is reminding them to focus on quality work as they have an extended agreement.

“We’re all anxious about wanting to know (what’s next),” Pruitte said.


U.S. upgrades Ford
Explorer police SUV probe

David Shepardson,
Detroit News Washington
October 2, 2015

Washington — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Friday it is upgrading its investigation into 20,275 Ford Explorer Police Interceptor SUVs over sudden braking failures.

NHTSA first opened a preliminary investigation in April to investigate reports of low-mileage failures of front brake jounce hoses in 2015 Ford Explorer Police Interceptor SUVs operated as training vehicles by the City of Sacramento, California. NHTSA's decision to upgrade the probe to an engineering analysis is a step required before the agency can issue a formal demand for a recall.

The Sacramento police fleet has reported seven front hose failures in five different Explorer Police Interceptor SUVs used in its Emergency Vehicle Operation Course training. Most of the failures took place within the first few miles of service on a closed course used for the program, which includes evasive accident avoidance and pursuit maneuver training.

The hose assemblies either leaked or pulled completely free from the caliper-end attachment where the hose is crimped to the steel end fitting. Most of the failures resulted in a sudden loss of braking performance that caused the vehicle to run off the intended course.

None of the failures resulted in any crashes, injuries or property damage. The 2015 hose assemblies are similar in design to hoses used 2013-14 Explorer Police Interceptor and civilian vehicles. The five vehicles used by Sacramento EVOC have all been repaired using a new 2016 front hose assembly that have been changed to incorporate a short steel tube attached to the caliper end banjo block.

No failures have been experienced by the Sacramento fleet to date in the other 37 2014-15 Explorer Police Interceptor vehicles used by the fleet in regular law enforcement duty cycles unrelated to the EVOC training.

Ford told NHTSA that two other similar failures have been reported by other fleets, including one involving a Sacramento Regional Transit vehicle that occurred while being driven on the street. Ford attributes the Sacramento fleet hose failures to excessive temperatures produced during "hot-soak" portions of the training duty cycle — when vehicles are stationary after hard-braking exercises, with no cooling air flow through the brake rotor vents and across the other brake components.

During testing conducted to replicate the Sacramento course, Ford measured temperatures at the subject crimp fittings that exceeded the design limits of the brake hose material after several successive training intervals and hot soaks.

Ford has given the Sacramento fleet modified replacement hose assemblies for all of its 2014-15 Explorer Police Interceptor vehicles.

"The replacement hose assemblies were developed for use in 2016 Explorer vehicles and were modified slightly to accommodate the addition of a ride height sensor in those vehicles," NHTSA said. "Ford believes that the excessive temperatures experienced at the crimp fitting in the subject vehicles are unique to the EVOC duty cycle, have not been observed in the standard on road severe duty cycle testing performed by Ford and police fleets who routinely conduct such testing and are not likely to occur in service usage for on-road Explorer Police Interceptor vehicles."


Ford issues six
new recalls covering
380,000 vehicles

David Shepardson,
Detroit News Washington Bureau
October 1, 2015

Washington — Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday it is issuing six recalls covering more than 380,000 vehicles. It includes a new recall of 342,000 older Windstar minivans that previously had been called back.

The latest Windstar recall includes 1998-2003 models. Dealers will inspect the rear axles of the minivans to make sure the fixes were made correctly.

The original recall of the minivans involved installation of a reinforcement bracket on the rear axle that would keep things under control if rust and stress caused the axle to break.

“A bracket incorrectly installed could limit the effectiveness of that recall repair,” the company said, adding it has reports of a small number of crashes related to the issue but no injuries.

Owners whose vehicles had the bracket installed incorrectly will have the rear axle replaced. If the bracket was correctly installed, customers will receive a $300 incentive to replace their rear axle at a reduced cost. The offer is good for one year with unlimited mileage.

The other recalls include:

■37,000 2015 F-150 trucks for a potential problem with the adaptive cruise control. Ford says that hen passing a large, highly reflective truck, the adaptive cruise control radar in some of these vehicles could incorrectly identify the truck as being in the F-150 lane of travel when it is not. As a result, the vehicle might mistakenly apply the brakes incorrecly. Ford said it has one report of a crash related to the issue. Dealers will update the adaptive cruise control module software.

■70 2001-2008 Ford Escapes and Mercury Mariners with a remanufactured transmissions. The shift control lever bolt might not have been tightened properly, which could cause the shift lever to disengage from the transmission without warning. This can result in the loss of transmission gear selection and the vehicle could roll away, increasing the risk of an injury or crash. Ford is not aware of any accidents or injuries associated with this issue. Dealers will check to ensure the bolt is tightened properly.

■250 2015 Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS vehicles, and 2016 Ford Explorers for potential fuel tank attachment bolt issue. The bolts may not have been tightened improperly. As a result, the fuel tank straps could break, causing the fuel tank to come loose and cause a fuel leak or fire. Dealers will properly tighten the bolts.

■1,500 2016 Ford F-53 and F-59 stripped chassis vehicles for a potential shift control bracket issues. The shift control bracket might not have been manufactured properly, so the vehicle might be able to be shifted into reverse without applying the brakes.Dealers will replace the bracket.

■700 2016 Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ vehicles for a fuel tank issue. The fuel tank might not have been manufactured properly and could crack in a crash, which would violate a U.S. safety standard. Dealers will replace the tank.


Ford workers in Kansas
City could strike Sunday

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
September 30, 2015

The eyes of the auto industry were riveted on voting by Fiat Chrysler workers, but United Auto Workers leaders said Tuesday that more than 7,000 members at Ford Motor Co.'s Kansas City Assembly Plant may strike Sunday if a local labor contract is not reached.

The plant is critical to Ford because it makes the popular F-150 trucks.

Union leaders said the indefinite contract extension approved Sept. 14 at the plant had been canceled; the two sides have five days to come to an agreement on a local pact, which is separate from the national agreement still being hammered out.

National talks with Ford and General Motors Co. are on the back burner as the union tries to ratify a proposed deal with FCA.

"We have been unable to reach a fair local agreement with the Ford Motor Company after meeting over 40 times since April," Todd Hillyard, bargaining chairman for UAW Local 249, wrote on Facebook. "The company refuses to address important issues around safety, seniority and manpower at KCAP. We feel we have no other choice at this point to reach a fair agreement."

Besides the F-150, the plant produces Transit vans. Ford also makes F-150s in Dearborn.

A strike of any length at Ford's 4 million-square-foot Kansas City plant would be a major blow to the Dearborn automaker. Ford is just now starting to build inventory of its profitable pickup after a tight supply — due to a changeover to the aluminum model — hurt the company's bottom line in the first quarter.

"You go after where the profits are being made," said Kristin Dziczek, Center for Automotive Research director of the Industry & Labor Group, in explaining the union's strategy.

Ford-UAW Department Vice President Jimmy Settles said in an update to membership on Tuesday that he had given 120-hours notice to Ford and received approval from the international union for a strike by Local 249.

"This action is necessary for two reasons," Settles wrote. "One, it honors a commitment your national Ford delegates unanimously agreed to in March of this year, to have all local agreements completed simultaneous to the national agreement. Secondly, the company has failed to negotiate in good faith at the local level on issues surrounding manpower provisions, the national heat stress program and skilled trades scheduling amongst others.

"The challenges we face may not be easy, and I certainly cannot predict the future, but I would rather die fighting than to do an injustice to this membership or our institution."

Settles made it clear that UAW members with Ford should expect a different deal than the one being voted on by workers at Fiat Chrysler.

"Many aspects of FCA's current agreement are different than the agreement we currently have with Ford, such as attendance policy, work schedules, vacation language, discipline, job security, apprenticeship testing and progression of entry-level to legacy pay rates, to name a few," he said.

"In addition, there have been instances in the past where Ford, FCA and GM have even had differing pay scales and rates."

Dziczek said if the two sides were making progress by Friday, they could extend the agreement again, but a strike authorization from the international was an important step.

"If you have an arrow in your quiver, (the strike authorization is like) taking it out and getting ready to notch it back," she said.

The plant posted a strike assignment bulletin to members, detailing when and where they'd be required to picket in the case of a strike. Striking members would receive $200 a week from the union's strike fund beginning with the eighth day of the strike Monday through Tuesday.

"We work every day to avoid a disruption of our production, and we are confident we will be able to negotiate a fair and competitive labor agreement with our UAW partners," Ford spokeswoman Kristina Adamski said in a statement.


Warren Truck production
workers support FCA deal

Michael Wayland,
The Detroit News
September 29, 2015

The tentative four-year contract between the United Auto Workers and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles received a lifeline on Monday, as a slim majority of production workers at Warren Truck Plant voted in favor of the deal.

The Metro Detroit facility — which employs more than 4,000 hourly workers — had 53 percent of production employees and 36 percent of skilled trades workers support the pact, according to voting results obtained by The Detroit News. The result came after several other Fiat Chrysler facilities, including Jefferson North Assembly on Friday, overwhelmingly voted against the deal.

The split in voting in Warren is a small victory for supporters of the deal. With three other large facilities expected to vote through Wednesday, there remains a chance for ratification, as Warren Truck joins at least one engine plant and some salaried local unions that are believed to have supported the deal.

"I hear a lot of people complaining about it, but I'm all for it," said John Versace, an entry-level at worker at Warren Truck who voted Monday. "I see nothing but gains."

Despite casting the "yes" ballot, the Warren Truck worker said he doesn't think the agreement will be ratified. He and others told The Detroit News on Monday that they were worried what will happen if the contract is rejected by members.

Skilled trades and production workers must separately cast a majority of "yes" ballots for the contract to be ratified.

UAW-Fiat Chrysler voting results

Here are the known voting results compiled by The Detroit News. At Toledo Machining, separate results for production workers and skilled trades workers haven't been made public, but 71.5% of all workers said "no" to ratification.

"Unless something drastically changes, I think it's going to fail," said Ken Mefford, a 20-year veteran worker at Warren Truck. "Is it a totally horrible contract? No. But is there anything for anyone to get particularly happy over? No."

If the pact does get voted down, it would be the first time Chrysler workers have rejected an agreement since 1982, when 70 percent of the workforce voted "no," according to the Journal of Business & Economic Research and media reports from the time. It also would come six years after Ford Motor Co. workers voted to reject a contract during a special round of negotiations following the emergence from bankruptcy in 2009 of Chrysler and General Motors Co.

At least three scenarios could unfold if ratification fails: Union leaders could head back to the negotiating table with Fiat Chrysler and its unpredictable CEO Sergio Marchionne; a strike or multiple strikes could occur; or the union could switch its attention to Ford or GM, which have both indefinitely extended their current contracts with the union.

"There's a fair amount of risk for these folks," said Art Wheaton, labor expert with the Worker Institute at Cornell University. "Many people think, 'If we vote it down, they'll come back with a better deal.'

"That's not necessarily true."

A history of dissension

Although opposition to the UAW-Fiat Chrysler deal is daunting, it isn't unprecedented.

In 1982, Chrysler workers voted against ratification of the contract. Leadership eventually returned to the bargaining table to tackle issues of profit sharing, cost of living adjustments and raises (all issues UAW members have said they would like to see addressed more in the 2015 agreement, along with elimination of the two-tier wage system). They ratified the deal in December.

Back then, Chrysler was near bankruptcy prior to the contract and had to seek a loan guarantee from the government, said Mike Smith, archivist for the Michigan Historical Collections at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. He said the UAW president at the time, Douglas Fraser, had to go to members three times to get concessions to help the company get through the tough times.

"It is rare, rare, rare when the membership votes down a contract endorsed by the leadership," he said.

In 2007, it appeared ratification with Chrysler would never happen, as majorities at six local unions, including four assembly plants, voted against the pact. Union President Ron Gettelfinger and Vice President General Holiefield "pulled out all the stops," according to Smith.

"They went to the gates of the factory, they went to the membership," he said. "They did their best to convince the membership it was a good deal."

In the final few days of voting, workers changed their tune and the deal was eventually ratified.

Even during negotiations in 2011, when 58 percent of Chrysler production workers voted to ratify the contract, only 44 percent of skilled trades workers supported it. Union rules require contracts to be ratified by both skilled trades and production workers. UAW leaders in closed session voted to overturn the skilled trades veto and sign the agreement.

The current contract

The current proposed deal includes $3,000 ratification bonuses (down from $3,500 in 2011); wage hikes for both wage tiers of plant workers; hefty profit-sharing based on the company's North American operations; and $5.3 billion in plant investments. It narrows pay gaps between entry and veteran workers.

There would essentially be four wage, or classification, systems: veteran at about $28 an hour or more; current tier-two topping out at $25.35 an hour; and Mopar and axle operators at $22 and $22.35, respectively.

Many workers have voiced displeasure with the proposed deal, saying it does not eliminate the contentious two-tier pay system, fails to cap entry-level hires, doesn't do enough to address alternative work schedules and doesn't increase wages enough.

UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell told The News on Sunday he couldn't predict the outcome of the voting. "Mathematically, it's still possible," he said before speaking at an informational meeting for Toledo Assembly Complex workers with UAW Local 12 in Toledo.

Warren Truck was the first of four large plants that are expected to vote this week. The others are Sterling Heights Assembly Plant and Toledo Assembly Plant (both Tuesday) and Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois (Wednesday). Collectively, they employ more than 16,000 hourly workers.

"It ain't over until it's over, and these locals can make or break it," said Kristin Dziczek, Center for Automotive Research director of the Industry & Labor Group. "And they don't necessarily follow the people that have already voted."

Belvidere workers were expected to vote Monday. However, according to an update from the local union, that was changed to Wednesday "due to feedback from membership" to separate informational meetings and voting.


Old Detroit lives in UAW
tide against FCA deal

Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
September 28, 2015

The potential rejection of the FCA-UAW labor contract shows Old Detroit is not yet dead, proof that competitive reality cannot necessarily overcome unrealistic expectations in a post-bailout era.

The loss would be a stinging defeat for United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Sergio Marchionne, two weeks after the pair unveiled their tentative agreement amid talk of mutual admiration, cooperation and "bridging the gap" between higher-paid "legacy" workers and those paid lower second-tier wages.

In the days since, members learned there would be no cap on second-tier hires, now accounting for 45 percent of FCA's hourly UAW workforce; that most car production would be headed to Mexico in exchange for keeping the next-generation Jeep Wrangler in Toledo; that a proposed $3,000 signing bonus would be $500 less than four years ago.

What went wrong? Plenty. Start with the "Now is our time" rhetoric, a clear signal from bargainers that they would restore the status quo upended by Chrysler's ugly slide into bankruptcy and its slow climb out under Marchionne. Add "bridge the gap," which Williams explained this summer did not mean eliminating the second-tier hire — even if that is not how it was widely interpreted.

A contract "highlighter" one longtime industry analyst called the weakest and most poorly written he has ever seen failed to explain adequately a proposed health-care co-op pool. It did not detail how the pool would be funded, by whom and whether its creation would affect current benefits.

"What a mess — just a mess," says Sean McAlinden, chief economist and vice president for strategic studies at the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research. "It's just not a clever document. They disappointed too many expectations, both the first and second-tier workers.

"They not only didn't bring a good deal to the rank and file. They under-performed for management. They can't control their people. Somebody gauged this wrong, unless there's a more complex strategy here by Williams."

Namely, if Williams and UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell are convinced their restive FCA members would not approve a deal that creates two new tiers, fails to cap second-tier hires and leaves too many health care questions unanswered, the best way to prove it is to show Marchionne that it cannot be.

Worse, the business-savvy Williams may have committed a tactical error with his decision to announce the tentative agreement Sept. 15 alongside the hard-driving Marchionne. Such overt chumminess, rare in UAW-Big Three bargaining, can raise suspicions among old-timers accustomed to us-vs-them contention in auto talks.

"Negotiations is about trying to figure out how you can do the best for the membership, keep the company healthy enough that you don't put them in a position to invest outside the country so there's a future," Jewell told The Detroit News in an interview Sunday.

"That's what we thought we did. It's the long-term, not just tomorrow. I feel good about what we negotiated. It may not be what people wanted, but I don't believe we did some terrible job."

A lot of members appear to disagree. As feared by Solidarity House, the social media tools available to anyone with a keyboard or smartphone are becoming far more destabilizing — and effective — in the ratification drive than they did in the run-up to a tentative agreement.

Bargaining team members showed the needed discipline, generally ensuring that discarded proposals did not become public. The rank and file, unhappy with the dearth of information, aren't bound similarly.

It's showing — on Facebook, Twitter feeds and voting results pointing to likely defeat in contract balloting. Should voting at FCA's Toledo Assembly, Belvidere and Sterling Heights Assembly track voting so far, the proposed contract likely would be rejected.

The risks are manifold, each with public perception problems. Union leaders and FCA could extend the contract on a day-by-day basis while negotiations resume. Or union bargainers could turn their attention to General Motors Co. or Ford Motor Co., leaving Marchionne and the FCA rank and file to stew.

The union could choose to strike FCA, the weakest of Detroit's three automakers in terms of cash or its ability to withstand anything more than a symbolic stoppage, particularly at its profit-rich Jeep or pickup operations.

Marchionne has wiggle room, should he choose to use it. McAlinden's Center for Automotive Research estimates that labor costs account for roughly 4 percent of FCA's total costs, less than its cross-town rivals. Its proposed second-tier wage rates would still run less than Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. pay in their U.S. operations.

Times have changed, in many ways irrevocably. Detroit's automakers, chiefly GM and Ford, are making big money in the United States precisely because they have re-engineered their product portfolios, rationalized their manufacturing footprints and killed brands.

The UAW did the same, eliminating the practice of paying people not to work; axing cost-of-living adjustments that balloon labor costs; trading base-wage increases for enriched profit-sharing formulas; institutionalizing the use of second-tier hires as union bargainers already had in the sprawling supply base.

Snapping back to pre-bankruptcy days is tempting in a time of strong sales volume, comparatively low gas prices and a healthy appetite for the trucks and SUVs that fatten Detroit's bottom line — conditions that do not last forever,


UAW deal under fire
before key votes

Michael Wayland,
The Detroit News
Sept 27, 2015

Toledo — Approval of the tentative four-year contract between the United Auto Workers and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is in jeopardy after a majority of workers voted "no" at several large facilities, including Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit.

But UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell insisted Sunday it's still "mathematically" possible for the contract to be ratified.

Jefferson North results were confirmed Sunday, and they were decisive: 66 percent of production workers voted against the contract, as did 77 percent of skilled trades workers. Balloting at the plant, which employs about 4,400 hourly workers, took place Friday.

The fate of the contract should become clear by Tuesday. Four major plants that employ more than 16,000 of the roughly 40,000 employees under the contract are scheduled to vote by then. The plants, part of a proposed $5.3 billion U.S. investment plan under the deal, are Warren Truck Plant and Belvidere Assembly in Illinois (voting Monday), and Sterling Heights Assembly Plant and Toledo Assembly Complex (voting Tuesday). Warren Truck actually started voting last week, but due to a ballot error is expected to finish Monday.

Jewell told The Detroit News on Sunday he couldn't predict the outcome of the voting. "Mathematically, it's still possible," he said before speaking at an informational meeting for Toledo Assembly Complex workers with UAW Local 12 in Toledo. "My job right now is to explain things, answer all their questions and let some of them vent."

Workers at Trenton Engine Complex and Toledo Machinery showed their displeasure Friday by overwhelmingly casting ballots that rejected the deal. Majorities also voted "no" Friday at Sterling Stamping and at Local 685 in Kokomo, Indiana, which represents nearly 6,000 workers at several facilities. A majority voted "no" Thursday at a casting plant in Kokomo.

A majority of all workers at Dundee Engine are believed to have supported the pact, as did some salaried units. It is difficult to calculate the overall popular vote because most results are being reported to members by percentages, not single votes.

Many workers have voiced displeasure with the proposed deal, saying it does not eliminate the contentious two-tier pay system, fails to cap entry-level hires, doesn't do enough to address alternative work schedules and doesn't increase wages enough.

'We're upset'

"We're upset with our representation," said Darius Simpson, an entry-level worker at Toledo Assembly Complex. "People are asking good questions, but they're not getting answered."

Simpson, 22, was one of thousands of UAW Local 12 members with Toledo Assembly who gathered on Sunday in downtown Toledo to discuss the contract. Members of the news media were not allowed in the meeting, which lasted more than three hours. Simpson described the meeting as "tense" but "controlled."

Nearly three hours into the meeting, which had law enforcement on hand, at least one man was escorted out by union officials.

More than 40 workers protested outside, chanting "Hell no, vote no" and "Hell no, Sergio" (referencing Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne). Signs ranged from "No more tiers" to "Say no to broken promises."

"Broken promises" has been a theme since details were announced Sept. 18. Some workers have said the union deceived them by not reinstating a 25 percent cap on the entry-level, or tier-two, workers. About 45 percent, or 16,500, of Fiat Chrysler's 36,600 union production workers are second-tier workers.

According to the 2011 contract summary, a 25 percent cap on entry-level workers would be "reinstated at the end of the contract, as outlined in the bankruptcy settlement agreement." At that time, all workers in excess of that percentage were expected to receive "the same wages as traditional Chrysler workers."

"I think we should all get paid equal," said Kenneth McCarthey Jr., who was hired into Toledo Assembly Complex in 2013. "They never kept their word."

When asked about the cap, Jewell said the union negotiates "contract by contract," and leaders attempted to do the best for all of the second-tier workers, not just a certain percentage.

"We're trying to eliminate that and do something that made the most sense for everybody," he said. "It's getting misconstrued … it's just difficult."

'Best agreement since '99'

Many members, according to Jewell, have misunderstand parts of the contract, including the health care co-op, attendance policy and wage system. He said many have negative preconceived notions from what they've seen on social media.

"This is the best agreement since '99 because things have been going in the wrong direction since then," Jewell said. "People got their issues because they don't understand a lot of it. The social media is putting out more bad information than good."

Many have loudly voiced opposition to the deal online, starting Facebook groups for members to post their "no" votes and offensive memes about Marchionne, Jewell and other company and union officials.

Some workers also have voiced concerns about a lack of information about a new union-led health care co-op, which Jewell has said will not increase charges to members. Some retirees also have voiced concerns, as the deal does not provide many benefits for them.

"We feel we don't have proper representation. We gave up so much with the bankruptcy," Diana Spalding, a Chrysler retiree, said Sunday during a non-union event in Toledo. "I think (the proposal) needs to go back and reworked ... There are a lot of things that are questionable, and it's not enough.

The proposal includes $3,000 ratification bonuses (down from $3,500 in 2011); wage hikes for both tiers of plant workers; hefty profit-sharing based on the company's North American operations; and $5.3 billion in plant investments. It narrows pay gaps between entry and veteran workers.

There would essentially be four wage, or classification, systems: veteran at about $28 an hour or more; current tier-two topping out at $25.35 an hour; and Mopar and axle operators at $22 and $22.35, respectively.

Numerous workers who talked with The Detroit News on Sunday voiced displeasure with losing the Jeep Cherokee as well as the way Marchionne announced the Jeep Wrangler's fate (through an interview with industry publication Automotive News).

Under the tentative pact and $5.3 billion investment plan, Toledo Assembly would keep its prized Wrangler, but lose the hot-selling Jeep Cherokee to Belvidere Assembly to make more room for Wrangler production.

The proposed product moves also include: Production of the Dodge Dart at Belvidere as well as production of the Chrysler 200 at Sterling Heights Assembly moving to Mexico. Sterling Heights would in turn get the Ram 1500 pickup from Warren Truck, and Warren would get the Jeep Wagoneer — a three-row SUV that isn't due out until at least 2018.

Jewell said, "We thought we pushed the envelope and got them some really good increases in their standard of living and still got the company to agree to invest. That's what we believed our job was. It's the long-term, not just tomorrow."

Skilled trades and production workers must separately cast a majority of "yes" ballots for the contract to be ratified.

If the contract is not ratified, leaders could go back to the bargaining table with Fiat Chrysler; a strike could occur; or the union could switch their attention to Ford Motor Co. or General Motors Co., with which the UAW continues negotiating after contracts were extended indefinitely earlier this month.

Jewell said officials would work to hammer out concerns if the contract is rejected: "It won't be the first time. I've watched other contracts get turned down. You sit down, listen to the membership and try to figure out is it just misunderstandings … and then go back to the drawing board."


NDP promises $2.6 billion
towards universal drug plan

The New Democrats are committing $2.6 billion in
new federal funding over four years to help the
provinces drive down the cost of prescription drugs.

Toronto Star
By: Joanna Smith
Sep 20, 2015

OTTAWA—The New Democrats are promising to take the health-care dream of Tommy Douglas one step further, pledging to support the provinces as they work toward providing universal coverage for prescription drugs.

The promise and the price tag

The NDP pledged $2.6 billion over four years — ramping up to $1.5 billion annually in fiscal 2019-20 — in new federal funding focused on universal drug coverage negotiated with and delivered by the provinces.

Another $80 million over four years would go to federal participation in the Pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance — a bulk-purchasing plan the provinces started building in 2010 to negotiate better prices for brand-name and generic drugs — and other initiatives such as improving drug safety.

Tommy Douglas and medicare 2.0

At a campaign event in Regina, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair read a quote from NDP founder Tommy Douglas, often referred to as the father of the Canadian public health-care system.

"Let's not forget that the ultimate goal of medicare must be to keep people well, not just keep patching them up when they get sick," Douglas had said as he went on to describe a vision that included a much broader continuum of care — including pharmacare — than the hospital, physician and surgical dental services insured under the Canada Health Act.

How would they get there?

There are a number of ways they could achieve that goal, but the NDP says it is leaving the details up to individual negotiations with the provinces.

The Quebec model of compulsory prescription drug insurance is one option, but other provinces will have other ideas and the NDP notes it is not a one-size-fits-all plan. The NDP is dreaming bigger than catastrophic coverage, said one NDP official, but they would not go so far as to amend the Canada Health Act to include prescription drugs.

Do the provinces want it?

In a word, yes. Provincial and territorial health ministers gathered in Toronto in June to try to figure out the most efficient and cost-effective way to deliver medically necessary prescription drugs.

"A national pharmacare program is in the interest of our patients and of all Canadians," Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins said at the time.

Steve Kent, the health minister for Newfoundland and Labrador, told reporters then the federal government had "a critical role to play".

"This is not something, quite frankly, that provinces and territories can do on their own," said Kent.

How much money could it save?

A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal this March concluded a national universal prescription drug plan could bring $7.3 billion in public and private spending every year.

The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions estimated a national drug plan would bring lower drug costs and reduced administration fees amounting to savings worth up to $11.4 billion annually.

The NDP has put forward a more conservative estimate of $3 billion in annual savings they would want to see the provinces reinvest in health care.

The party also says it would fit within the $5.4 billion over four years in new spending for health and seniors care revealed in its fiscal plan released Wednesday.

Other ideas

Federal health minister Rona Ambrose, who is running for re-election as a Conservative in the Alberta riding of Edmonton-Spruce Grove, asked the provinces this summer to let Ottawa to participate in the bulk-purchasing plan, which the premiers expressed openness to at their July meeting in St. John's, N.L.

A spokesman for Ambrose told The Canadian Press this summer that working with the provinces on bulk-purchasing must happen before the federal government would spend any more money in that area.

The Liberals passed a health-care policy resolution at their 2014 convention calling for funding to create a national pharmacare program, but there have been no announcements on the topic during the campaign.


FCA to put $5.3B in U.S.
plants; cars to move to Mexico

Michael Wayland,
The Detroit News
September 19, 2015

United Auto Workers leaders from across the country gathered Friday in Detroit to vote on a tentative contract with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV that includes raises for all hourly workers and profit-sharing checks based on profit margins. The contract also includes a $5.3 billion investment in U.S. plants, as part of a plan to move nearly all domestic car production to Mexico, and fill the voids left on American assembly lines with more-profitable SUVs and pickups.

Plant investments under the four-year proposed deal involve at least five vehicles and four U.S. assembly plants. The investments, like the pay hikes, are contingent on ratification by the union's 40,000 Fiat Chrysler members.

Production of the Ram 1500 pickup would move from the Warren Truck Assembly Plant to the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, according to two sources briefed on the matter who didn't want to be identified because union membership hadn't been told about the moves.

Production of the Chrysler 200 in Sterling Heights would go to Mexico, and the upcoming Jeep Grand Wagoneer would be built at Warren, according to the sources.

Dodge Dart production, currently in Belvidere, Illinois, also would move to Mexico, one source said. The Illinois plant also makes the Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot, but those vehicles are being phased out under the automaker's previously announced five-year plan. The Jeep Cherokee, which Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said would leave the Toledo Assembly Complex to make more room for the Jeep Wrangler, would move to Belvidere.

"Some of it seems like a lot of movement, but the idea of putting higher profit-margin vehicles in plants with higher labor costs, and putting production of vehicles with lower profit margins in plants that have lower labor costs, makes perfect sense," said IHS Automotive senior analyst Stephanie Brinley, who had not been briefed on the plan.

The strategy is meant to focus popular pickup and SUV production in the U.S., and concentrate the slower-selling cars in plants in Mexico, where labor rates are cheaper.

"It's all about margins for Sergio Marchionne," said Kelley Blue Book managing editor Matt DeLorenzo. "By moving car production to Mexico with its lower costs, it stands a better chance of making money on vehicles it typically uses incentives to move."

Building the majority of the automaker's hot-selling SUV, pickup and crossover models domestically could provide better stability for UAW members. However, it would cost billions of dollars and likely a lot of downtime at the facilities involved.

The production proposal helps the company move some of its most important, profitable products to newer facilities. The Warren Truck Plant in particular is one of the oldest, most outdated production facilities of any domestic automaker. It is in need of significant investments and a new paint shop — which the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant has, due to $1 billion in investments in recent years.

The Grand Wagoneer, a three-row luxury SUV, isn't due on showroom floors until at least 2018, giving the company time to overhaul the Warren plant.

The production shuffle would leave the Dodge Viper as the only car produced by Fiat Chrysler in the United States. Workers at Conner Avenue Assembly in Detroit hand-built just 760 of the V-8 sports cars last year.

Officials with the union and automaker declined to comment on the contract provisions. Union members are expected to be briefed on the details in the coming days, following a UAW National Council meeting and UAW Leadership meeting with Local union leaders Friday at the Renaissance Center. Anywhere from 100 to 200 union officials are expected to attend. They, in turn, will explain the tentative agreement to their members before the company-wide ratification vote.

The proposed $5.3 billion investment in U.S. production facilities is nearly equal to the $5.7 billion the company has invested domestically since 2009.

The product moves were first reported by trade publication Automotive News.

The plans are similar to what Ford Motor Co. recently announced. The Dearborn automaker builds three cars — the Lincoln MKZ, Fusion and Fiesta — in Mexico. Earlier this year, the company said it was pulling production of the Focus and C-Max from Michigan Assembly in Wayne in 2018; the union was told those cars are heading out of the country, likely to Mexico. Ford entered contract talks with the UAW with plans to bring production of the Ranger midsize pickup to Wayne.

Wage increases

First- and second-tier UAW members at Fiat Chrysler would receive wage hikes and profit sharing based on North American-generated profit margins under the tentative deal that help bring entry-level workers closer to their veteran counterparts.

The entry-level, or second-tier, will have a top wage of about $25 per hour, according to two sources briefed on the deal. Second-tier workers currently start at under $16 and top out at $19.28 per hour over four years.

The amount of time it takes for a worker to reach the top will depend on how long they've worked as a second-tier worker, according to the sources. For tier-two workers already making the top wage, the tentative deal would give them a roughly 30 percent increase once they hit the new top wage.

Veteran, or tier-one, workers who currently make about $28 an hour would receive 3 percent wage increases in their first and third years of the contract and 4 percent lump sums in the second and fourth years, according to the sources.

In addition to wage increases, all workers would receive $800 for every one percent of profit margin from its North American-based operations, officially called FCA US. Second-tier workers also would receive additional money after an 8 percent margin to help "bridge the gap" with veteran workers: $1,000 for 8 percent; $2,000 for 9 percent; and $4,000 for 10 percent.

Under the last contract profit sharing checks were based on 85 percent of the FCA US's operating profit.

Most Fiat Chrysler workers the last four years received about $16,500 in bonuses and profit sharing before taxes. Over the same four years, Ford hourly employees received up to $43,200 in bonuses and profit sharing before taxes, and GM workers received $39,250 pre-tax.

Bloomberg News, which first reported the wage changes, also said workers will receive a $3,000 signing bonus if the contract is ratified.

Appeasing the tier-two workers was particularly important for Fiat Chrysler because they make up 45 percent of its workforce. General Motors Co.'s tier-two workers account for only 20 percent of the workforce; at Ford, it's 28 percent.

GM, Ford next

While Fiat Chrysler's tentative deal is expected to set a pattern for negotiations with Ford and GM, Williams on Tuesday hinted the union may be seeking more lucrative deals with them, because they're making more money. Contract talks are ongoing at those two automakers.

"This is a contract that we can very well pattern, but pattern is very unique to each company," Williams said on Tuesday, adding "each company has different unique ways of operating." He mentioned he will look at the profitability and status of each company.

John Stapleton, GM's chief financial officer in North America, was asked Wednesday at an investors conference if he thought the UAW would be more aggressive with GM on securing a contract deal than it was with FCA.

"We have a great relationship with the UAW, with Dennis Williams and (UAW Vice President) Cindy Estrada," Stapleton said. "I can't say that they'll be more or less aggressive. I think what they typically try to do is negotiate a pattern agreement. That would be the baseline that they would start from and we'll go from there."

Stapleton declined to comment on the tentative agreement Fiat Chrysler and the UAW reached and how it could impact GM because limited details have been shared and GM's team is still bargaining.


GM to pay $900 million fine to
settle ignition switch criminal case

General Motors will pay $900 million to settle criminal charges related
to its flawed ignition switch that has been tied to at least 124 deaths

Sept 17, 2015
Chris Isidore &
Evan Perez

Problems with the ignition switch could shut off the car while it was being driven, disabling the airbag, power steering and power brakes -- and putting drivers and passengers at risk.

GM had already admitted that its employees were aware of the problem nearly a decade before it started to recall millions of the cars early last year. That delay is the basis behind the criminal charges.

The settlement was disclosed Thursday by the Justice Department. No individual GM executives were charged in the case. GM (GM) did not immediately have a comment on the settlement.

The automaker has set up a compensation fund to pay the families of those killed, as well as those injured, in accidents. GM will pay at least $150 million into the fund.

General Motors has also changed how it handles recalls. The result: a massive surge of more than 30 million recalls and an estimated $4.1 billion cost to repair cars and trucks, not including the cost of this fine.

GM has already agreed to pay the maximum possible fine of $35 million to settle civil charges with federal safety regulators.

The criminal settlement is just the latest announced by the Justice Department against corporations.

Last year Toyota (TM) agreed to pay $1.2 billion to settle a case related to its failure to recall cars despite reports of unintended acceleration. In 2013 JPMorgan Chase (JPM) agreed to a record $13 billion fine to settle criminal charges related to the sale of mortgage backed securities ahead of the 2008 financial crisis.



UAW-FCA bargaining
being watched in Windsor

Tom Morrison
Our Windsor.ca
Sept 17, 2015

The contract discussions between the United Auto Workers and the Detroit Three auto companies in the U.S. are drawing the attention of those familiar with the auto industry in Windsor.

The UAW is currently in bargaining with Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, which the UAW chose as the target company. The current contract was set to expire at the end of Monday, but the company and union have been extending the contract on an hour-by-hour basis.

Unifor Local 444 president Dino Chiodo said it isn't necessarily a bad thing to have FCA as the lead company, but he's waiting to see how the company and union resolve the two-tier wage system issue.

"It's just a matter of being on pins and needles as to how that gets resolved and how it could negatively affect, or what implications it might have on Canadian bargaining for the Big Three," said Chiodo, whose local represents FCA Canada workers at the Windsor Assembly Plant.

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has said he's opposed to the two-tier wage system and UAW president Dennis Williams has said the looking at changing the system is one of his top priorities in the discussions.

Chiodo said he expects some kind of hybrid system to be negotiated similar to what has been established in Canada.

Currently, new U.S. autoworkers are paid at a lower wage than veterans and don't have the opportunity to rise to the first-tier rate. New Canadian workers at the Big Three begin at a lower rate and then reach the top wage after 10 years.

"If you expand the number of individuals that you hire at that second-tier rate as people retire from the top end, there's a bigger benefit for the company all around," said Chiodo. "Whereas in our system we try to connect to the corporation on a yearly basis hiring more and more employees to connect to its cost-savings over a 10-year cycle."

Tony Faria, co-director of the Office of Automotive and Vehicle Research at the University of Windsor, said the former Canadian Auto Workers and now Unifor has historically benefited from the U.S. contracts being negotiated first.

"They (will) know some things already that the Detroit Three is very willing to agree to and then can go after other things that are of interest to them," said Faria.

Unifor can also ask for a higher wage than UAW and still remain competitive, with the Canadian dollar sitting at around $0.75US, he said.

However, Faria said if Unifor were to want more job creation investments in Canada from the three auto companies, they would be better off putting together a contract that is less costly than what UAW agrees to.

Faria said he was surprised the UAW chose FCA over Ford Motor Company or General Motors as the target company. The union usually chooses the company in the best financial shape, but FCA ranks last, he said.

"On one hand the FCA is least able to withstand a strike and that might be somewhat of a positive, but at the same time the FCA is least able to agree to a lucrative contract," he said. "They absolutely, positively can't afford it."

Faria said this also means its unlikely FCA would be able to afford eliminating the two-tier wage system completely.

If a strike were to happen at FCA in the U.S., that impact would be felt in Windsor, Faria said. FCA has plants which provide engines, transmissions and stampings to the Windsor Assembly Plant, which would eventually have to shut down.

Chiodo said Unifor is usually supportive of the UAW and that would continue if there was a work stoppage, although he does not know specifically what the issues are in the bargaining discussions.

"We're supportive of each other because we know that usually it's about working standards, about pensions, benefits," he said. "It's about investment. It's about job security. It's about making sure we're doing the right thing."


UAW, Fiat Chrysler
deal tackles 2-tier pay

Michael Wayland,
Melissa Burden and
Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
Sept 16, 2015

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and the United Auto Workers announced a tentative agreement Tuesday night that addresses the critical issues of a two-tier pay structure and health care costs.

UAW President Dennis Williams said the proposed deal is "balanced" and keeps both sides competitive. At a joint press conference, he and Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne strongly suggested the deal includes a health care co-op — a concept floated by the UAW during negotiations. He said it also addresses the union's two-tier pay system that members say has divided factory floors, and it rewards workers for sacrifices made in recent years — the union's main goals heading into negotiations.

"We believe that we have met those goals," Williams told reporters shortly after the tentative deal was announced around 6:45 p.m. Tuesday — nearly 19 hours after the sides agreed to an "hour-by-hour" contract extension after missing the Monday midnight deadline. "But ultimately, our membership will make the final decisions."

Williams, Marchionne and their top negotiators declined to discuss exact details of the tentative agreement until it has been discussed with the union's membership.

Marchionne did say the contract addresses the issue of the tier-one/tier-two pay disparity under which newer workers are paid a lower hourly rate. He said it will go away "over time," but would not elaborate if the system will be eliminated under the tentative deal.

One of the most radical changes in the new deal could be a health care co-op pool that Marchionne said "will benefit the much larger population in terms of purchasing capability ... "

"I think it's embedded in the spirit of the agreement and I sincerely hope that it gets implemented," Marchionne said without providing any details.

A health care pool at all three Detroit automakers could pool all active salaried and hourly workers to help reduce automakers' rising health care costs and maintain benefits for its members in the future — similar to what the VEBA does for the current 860,000 UAW retirees and dependents.

Union leaders will have to sell the deal to their 35,700 members at Fiat Chrysler. The process can take weeks, but it's extremely rare for the membership to completely reject a national agreement.

"And now it's our job to go out and explain it to people so they understand what a great job I believe we did," said UAW Vice President Norwood Jewell, head of the union's bargaining with Fiat Chrysler.

Many UAW members such as FCA tier-one worker Mike Izzi, 46, of Harrison Township, want the two-tier system eliminated.

"I'd like to see us get a little bit of a raise for a change. We haven't seen a raise in a long time," Izzi said Tuesday outside the Warren Stamping Plant where he has worked for 15 years. "More importantly, though, I'd like to see the tier twos come up to tier one wages."

"It just doesn't work well in the plant with people earning different wages," he said. "It creates a lot of friction."

Economics of the tentative agreement, however, were under wraps Tuesday night.

The proposed pact is expected to set a pattern for General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. to follow in their ongoing negotiations. GM and Ford announced indefinite contract extensions on Monday, a typical move if a contract is not reached by the deadline.

"This is a contract that we can very well pattern, but pattern is very unique to each company," Williams said, adding "each company has different unique ways of operating." He also mentioned he will look at the profitability and status of each company.

John Beck, associate professor in Michigan State University's school of human resources and labor relations, said it appears the UAW and Fiat Chrysler worked well together during these contract talks.

"It's been fairly unprecedented in terms of the tenor," he said. "Both sides brought a serious, critical eye to negotiations. Both sides came to the table with a problem-solving attitude."

He said the biggest challenge, though, is getting the rank and file to ratify a deal.

"The UAW has attempted as much as it can to solidify good jobs for American workers," he said. "It's hard to know if it will be ratified in the current environment where a good job is hard to find."

Veteran workers haven't had a base wage increase in a decade, though they have received profit-sharing checks as the automakers regained their financial footing. Williams has made raising pay a big issue. U.S. auto sales are booming and the all three automakers are reporting strong profits, putting added pressure on the UAW to deliver.

On the other side of the bargaining table, automakers face pressure from Wall Street and foreign competitors to hold the line against big increases in labor costs.

If members aren't happy with the Fiat Chrysler deal, union negotiators could have to return to the bargaining table.

"If they can't get it ratified, it doesn't help either party," said Art Schwartz, president of Ann Arbor-based consultancy firm Labor and Economics Associates and a longtime labor-relations executive at GM.

During the last round of negotiations in 2011, 58 percent of Chrysler production workers voted to ratify the contract. Union rules require contracts to be ratified by both skilled trades and production workers. Only 44 percent of the company's skilled trades workers voted for the contract. UAW leaders in closed session voted to overturn that veto and sign the agreement.

Workers at several Fiat Chrysler facilities complained this week that communication from union leadership was scarce heading into the final hours of the negotiations. Those on both sides of the table kept developments close to the vest.

With an agreement hammered out at Fiat Chrysler, attention turns now to GM and Ford. In total, the contracts cover about 141,000 UAW members at all three automakers. Williams did not say which automaker is the next target for the union.

UAW members have authorized their leaders to strike each company, if necessary. This is the first year, post-bankruptcy, that workers at Fiat Chrysler and GM legally have been permitted to strike; as part of the companies' taxpayer bailouts, strikes were forbidden until they fulfilled bailout conditions.

Union members at all three automakers overwhelming voted "yes" to give leadership the authorization to call a strike. During the 2011 negotiations, the union agreed not to strike as a condition of the companies' government bailouts.

But general strikes, as a bargaining chip, have dwindled in the U.S. in recent years. They're costly — and the UAW's strike fund has $600 million, down from $1 billion in 2006. Williams has said "striking is a failure on both parties' part," but the union is prepared to do so, if necessary.

Looming over the this year's negotiations is Michigan's right-to-work legislation, which gives workers the ability to withdraw from the union and stop paying dues after the current contracts expire. This is the first collective bargaining since the law went into effect in March 2013.

What's next

■The UAW International Executive Board will meet Wednesday morning to review the tentative agreement for Fiat Chrysler members before voting on it.

■UAW leadership from across the country will come to Detroit to receive details of the tentative agreement and vote on it.

■Local Fiat Chrysler unions then will set information sessions for members, followed by ratification votes. The whole process will take about two weeks.

Source: United Auto Workers


NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair
vows spending for seniors

Thomas Mulcair promised the NDP, if elected, would
spend $1.8 billion over four years on Canada's seniors.

Toronto Star
Sep 14, 2015

Thomas Mulcair intends to spend this week talking about the NDP's plan to "renew Canada's health-care system," and kicked things off Sunday with a proposal aimed at the country's seniors.

Speaking in Vancouver, the NDP leader said "decades of Liberal and Conservative neglect" had left the health-care system unprepared "for the upcoming jump in Canada's aging population." He announced that, if elected, his party would spend $1.8 billion over four years to provide home-care for 41,000 seniors, work with the provinces to create 5,000 nursing home beds and increase access to end-of-life care.

Mulcair said the measures would improve the health and well-being of the country's elderly while taking pressure off hospitals by allowing seniors to stay in their homes longer at the end of their lives.

"Canadian seniors need access to quality health care, where they need it, when they need it," Mulcair said.

The NDP has vowed to keep all its election spending promises while also balancing the budget. Hedy Fry, the Liberal candidate for Vancouver Centre, warned that "Mulcair can't possibly deliver on new funding for seniors' health-care" while also "rushing to eliminate the deficit in just six months."

The NDP plans to unveil financial details of its policies before the leaders' debate scheduled for Thursday.


UAW's Settles
to get wage hike

Melissa Burden,
The Detroit News
September 12, 2015

UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, who represents Ford Motor Co. workers, said in a video released Friday that he is "very determined" to get a wage increase this year for his members.

"They're (Ford) making plenty of money," Settles says in the video that was taped Tuesday. "It just depends on how much."

"We haven't had a raise in 10 years," he continued. "And I don't think many people in America can say they have not gotten a raise in 10 years."

Settles said key issues in this round of negotiations include "money," "jobs" and addressing the wage disparity between entry-level and legacy workers.

Settles has been quieter than his UAW vice president counterparts representing General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobile workers as contract talks near the late Monday deadline. Both Cindy Estrada and Norwood Jewell, who represent GM and FCA members respectively, have issued letter updates to members, including one each this week.

Settles' comments were released in a video message by the UAW Ford Department. They stem from an interview with Al Upchurch, a senior vice president of Marx Layne & Co., a public relations firm.

Kristin Dziczek, director of the Industry & Labor Group with the Center for Automotive Research, said Friday that this year's contract talks have been quiet but the UAW has been trying to calm fears of workers.

"Quiet is good in negotiations, but it makes people restless," she said.



Elections Canada offices
now open seven a days week

Brampton Guardian
September 11, 2015

Elections Canada offices are now open seven days a week in all ridings for the upcoming Oct. 19 federal election.

Offices are open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.

Electors can visit these offices to get information, register, or vote.

Electors can vote early for candidates in their riding at any Elections Canada office across the country until Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 6 p.m.

To vote, electors must bring proof of identity and address.

• Brampton Centre Returning Officer is Janice A Barber, the office is located at 350 Rutherford Rd. South, Suite 202. Phone 1-866-236-8619.

• Brampton East Returning Officer is Bridge Ramdewar, the office is located at 18 Corporation Dr. Phone 1-866-236-8620.

• Brampton North Returning Officer is Paul Thomas McMorrow, the office is located at Sunny Meadow Commercial Centre, 50 Sunny Meadow Blvd. Phone 1-866-236-8621.

• Brampton South Returning Officer is John R. Holman, the office is located at Shoppers World, 499 Main St. South, Suite 64A. Phone 1-866-238-4145.

• Brampton West Returning Officer is Shashikant Nayak, the office is located at Brampton Commons, 60 Gillingham Dr., Suite 501. Phone 1-866-238-4171.

Advance polls are Oct. 9, 10, 11 and 12.



Mulcair vows to protect
Canadian auto-industry
jobs in TPP talks

Globe and Mail
Steven Chase and Greg Keenan
September 10, 2015

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is wading into a growing debate about the threat to Canadian auto-sector jobs in a proposed Pacific Rim trade deal, pledging an NDP government would fight for stronger rules in the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord to protect homegrown manufacturing.

“Canada not only needs a champion for the auto industry at home but a champion on the world stage,” Mr. Mulcair, whose party is currently leading in the polls, said during a campaign stop in Niagara Falls, Ont.

The Conservative government is coming under increasing pressure to extract a better deal for Canadian auto workers in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, and negotiations are under way in Washington this week to resolve a deadlock between Canada, Japan and Mexico over how a deal would treat vehicle imports. This matter has driven a wedge between North American Free Trade Agreement partners and stalled the huge trade accord.

Under existing NAFTA rules, a car can be sold in Canada, the United States or Mexico without facing tariffs as long as 62.5 per cent of it originates in one or more of these three countries.

Japan has proposed – and the United States has provisionally agreed – that the rule for Trans-Pacific partner countries in a proposed TPP trade zone should be that a car with as little as 45-per-cent domestic content can be sold without tariffs. This same side deal between Washington and Tokyo would allow the duty-free importation of auto parts with as little as 30-per-cent domestic content.

The NDP is saying that’s not good enough, vowing in a statement that a “Mulcair government will further protect Canadian auto jobs by defending existing regional content rules in trade negotiations.”

Mr. Mulcair’s campaign staff later explained that a New Democrat government would seek to preserve the 60-per-cent-plus NAFTA content rules for autos.

“Unlike Stephen Harper, an NDP government will protect Canadian automotive assembly and parts jobs in trade negotiations,” the NDP Leader said Wednesday in Niagara Falls.

But auto parts makers from Canada, the United States and Mexico are calling for TPP auto content rules of 50-per-cent domestic content.

The Conservative government has not divulged its bargaining position, but International Trade Minister Ed Fast, in a letter to auto parts makers this week, suggested he shares their position. He told the auto parts makers that a letter they sent him calling for 50-per-cent rules aligns “with my own views on the topic.”

Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, praised Mr. Mulcair’s trade negotiation pledge, saying Trans-Pacific talks threaten to give Japanese auto makers “another leg up” in North America. “If you move down to 40 per cent [of domestic content], the Canadian auto-parts sector is in deep, deep trouble.”



UAW strike option
would be ‘tough call’

David Shepardson,
Detroit News
September 9, 2015

As United Auto Workers negotiators bargain with Detroit’s Big Three automakers for a new four-year contract, the union will almost certainly face a critical decision: whether to call a strike against one of the Big Three, should they believe that action to be necessary.

It’s been 17 years since the last major strike at a U.S. automaker. The UAW struck two key General Motors plants in 1998 — Flint Metal Center and Delphi Flint East. The 54-day strike, the longest in three decades, crippled the Detroit automaker. It forced GM to idle nearly 180,000 employees and shutter 26 of 29 North American assembly plants. It idled more than a hundred auto supplier plants.

But general strikes, as a bargaining chip, have dwindled in the U.S. in recent years. They’re costly — and the UAW’s strike fund has $600 million, down from $1 billion in 2006.

In the current negotiations, the UAW and company officials have sought to play down the idea of a strike, emphasizing their strengthening labor-management partnerships while remaining mindful of how a walkout might play to the American taxpayer who bailed out GM and Chrysler during the industry meltdown. But the union has made it clear that it will call a strike if it doesn’t meet some bargaining objectives.

The UAW is under considerable pressure to deliver a good contract that shares in the companies’ rising profits.

Veteran workers haven’t had a base wage increase in a decade, though they have received hefty profit-sharing checks as the automakers regained their financial footing. UAW President Dennis Williams has made raising pay a big issue. U.S. auto sales are booming and the Big Three are all reporting hefty profits, putting added pressure on the UAW to deliver.

On the other side of the bargaining table, automakers face pressure from Wall Street and foreign competitors to hold the line against big increases in labor costs.

Williams told The Detroit News recently that a decision to strike would be a “tough call.”

“There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t think about the impact of a strike,” he said.

“I’m not going to say it’s not going to happen. I don’t know ... It’s a tough call, but it’s one that I’ll have to make at the right time. There are certain things that I will not walk away from the table without.”

Kristin Dziczek, director of the Industry & Labor Group at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, said she doesn’t “think everybody is itching for a strike.” A strike “would be a failure of the negotiating teams” on both sides, she said. “A strike is one of the weapons they have to get an agreement — it’s not one they use very regularly or lightly.”

Dziczek believes wages would be the foremost issue over which the UAW would be willing to call a strike. She said that among workers, “expectations are pretty high.”

The autoworkers union was barred from striking in 2011 as part of the $85 billion auto bailout that rescued GM and Chrysler. The UAW agreed to sweeping concessions as part of the restructuring of the two companies.

That strike prohibition did not apply to Ford Motor Co., which did not take a government bailout.

“All of the entry-level people have been hired since 2007 and haven’t for the most part gone on strike — and don’t know necessarily how that works,” Dziczek said.

Workers at GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV already have approved strike authorizations, on lopsided votes that are largely a foregone conclusion. Local union presidents and financial secretaries attended a strike-assistance conference last week. Some union locals are setting up food banks and have been encouraging members to save money in case of a walkout.

‘It is our time’

Strikes can occur in more than one way. The union can call a national strike or target one plant that, if prolonged, would cause a ripple effect on production and cripple operations across a company. That helps the UAW limit strike benefits it would need to pay.

For example, a targeted strike at Fiat Chrysler’s Kokomo Transmission Plant in Indiana could result in parts shortages at many FCA North American assembly plants. And a lengthy strike could significantly hamper FCA production operations. A targeted strike at a Ford or GM components plant could have similareffects .

Local unions also can go to UAW leaders and request a strike over local agreements, which was the case for the two Flint plants in 1998.

Some union locals have been emphatic about their expectations for this year’s talks. Johnny Pruitte, president of UAW Local 276 that represents hourly workers at GM’s Arlington Assembly Plant in Texas, said in a note to members last week that the union will make gains. In all capital letters, he wrote: “THIS TIME WE WILL NOT LEAVE THE TABLE EMPTY HANDED!”

He said the UAW will make up for prior concessions.

“In times past, we gave until it hurt and now it is our time to regain some of those losses. At the same time, we want to assure that not only ourselves but also future generations of UAW workers will have the opportunity to have good paying jobs with good benefits,” he wrote.

At $600 million, the UAW strike fund is down substantially from when the union has flexed its muscles in the past. That’s largely because the union tapped the strike fund over the last few years by $30 million to $40 million a year to pay operating expenses, as it resisted dues hikes during the industry downturn, when thousands lost their jobs.

To boost the fund, the UAW in June 2014 approved a 25 percent union dues rate increase, the first since since 1967. The increase is expected to generate $45 million annually. Supporters called it crucial to ensuring the union can command good contracts with a threat of a strike.

“If they have to go on strike, a short strike really isn’t going to hurt the union or their reputation,” said Art Schwartz, a longtime labor-relations executive at GM who now heads the Ann Arbor-based Labor and Economic Associates consultancy firm. “A long strike could damage their organizing efforts.”

It may be harder to win public support for strikes today. The number of workers belonging to unions continues to fall, and the UAW’s membership is about one-quarter of its peak in 1979.

In fact, strikes are becoming more rare. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said there were 11 major work stoppages last year that involved 1,000 or more workers and lasted at least one shift. That’s down from the 15 major work stoppages in 2013 and tied for the second-lowest annual total since 1947.

Fewer of those strikes are taking place in factories. Of those 11 major work stoppages, seven were in health care, social assistance and education.

The 1998 strike at GM’s Flint Metal Center and Delphi Flint East operations went on so long that GM pulled sheet metal off dozens of rail cars. Surface rust was scrubbed off by hand, and the metal was staged on the assembly line in Wentzville, Missouri.

‘Change is inevitable’

The strike prompted Jack Smith, chairman of GM at the time, to say the automaker needed to adapt to a more competitive world. “While every organization needs to preserve the appropriate aspects of its past, change is inevitable and unavoidable, even here in Flint,” he said.

Eleven years later, GM filed for bankruptcy protection — because, according to President Barack Obama’s auto task force and others, the automaker hadn’t taken enough painful steps to change its culture.


Staff Writers Michael Wayland and Melissa Burden contributed.

UAW strikes

■September 2007: Thousands of UAW workers walk off the job at 82 GM facilities nationwide — for just two days. Afterward, GM and the UAW agree on a pact that shifts retiree health care tasks to a trust and allows GM to hire new workers for lower pay under a new two-tier wage system. At then-Chrysler Group LLC, the strike is even shorter, just six hours.

■June 1998: About 9,200 workers at GM’s Flint Metal Center and Delphi Flint East parts complex go on strike for 54 days. It forces GM to shut down 26 of 29 North American assembly plants and idles more than a hundred suppliers.

■March 1996: A 17-day strike in Dayton, Ohio, effectively forces GM to shut down its North American manufacturing operations.



Unions set to launch major
anti-Harper offensive

Giuseppe Valiante
Globe & Mail
Sept 8, 2015

Canada’s largest unions say if enough of their members vote strategically in key ridings across the country, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives will not get a fourth term in office.

The anti-Harper strategy requires a highly organized communications attack that will give the union-selected candidate in a targeted riding the ability to use scarce election resources more freely.

Workers say their assault will begin shortly after Labour Day and will be the culmination of months of preparation.

Union heads have been training workers across the country on election campaign basics while collecting data through polling and focus groups on which ridings to target and what messages resonate most with voters.

Two main organized labour groups leading the charge are the Quebec Federation of Labour, which will focus on French Canada, while Unifor will be a major player in Ontario and in the rest of the country.

QFL secretary Serge Cadieux said the plan starts with the union calculating how many members it has in key ridings where the Conservatives won in 2011 or could win this time around.

“For example, take the riding of Denis Lebel,” Cadieux said, referring to Harper’s former infrastructure minister who represents the Lac Saint-Jean region north of Quebec City.

“Let’s say we have 9,000 members in that riding and our research shows that the Bloc Quebecois candidate has the best chance of beating Lebel. I’ll meet with the candidate and tell them we will visit every single one of our 9,000 members in the riding to get out their vote and the candidate can concentrate on the other voters.”

The number of union votes in certain ridings can be significant: the QFL boasts a membership of 600,000 people in Quebec while Unifor claims to be the country’s largest private-sector union with a membership role of 305,000 people.

Offering to contact thousands of people in a riding on behalf of a candidate is a precious time-saver, Cadieux explained, and allows the lucky party to concentrate limited resources elsewhere.

Cadieux said the federation will support any party – be it the Liberals, NDP, Bloc – which has the best shot at winning the riding, in order to keep the Tories out.

Unifor President Jerry Dias said his union’s strategy outside Quebec is similar. However, his people will be supporting all the incumbent NDP candidates.

Dias said his union will focus on ridings with a “critical mass” of unionized voters, and will be encouraging strategic voting in ridings without NDP incumbents.

“We don’t believe we can just tell our members how to vote,” he said. “We are going to be very active – very active – on getting out Harper’s record. Our whole strategy is engaging our members so that they’ll participate in the democracy of our country.”

Dias said unions used polling companies to collect data on voters who chose the Conservatives in 2011 by relatively small margins and could swing to the Liberals or the NDP this time around.

Part of that data was collected by Engage Canada, an anti-Harper organization known as a third party. Third parties are not affiliated to political parties but can campaign for certain issues by collecting donations. Third parties face strict limits on advertising spending during election campaigns but can spend virtually unlimited amounts of money before Parliament is dissolved.

Two well-placed sources with ties to the union movement said Engage Canada spent – at least – several million dollars on anti-Harper ad-buys on radio and television targeting voters considered as soft Tory supporters.

Much of Engage’s money came from unions, sources said, which was neither confirmed nor denied by the organization.

“Engage Canada received donations from across the country We did approach the unions and are very grateful for their generous support of our campaign,” a spokesperson responded by e-mail.

Dias said Unifor was “a major supporter of Engage – we played a significant role. There is no question there was significant money raised but I won’t get into it.”

The research conducted by Engage will be used by unions in the targeted ridings, Dias said.

“Engage was incredibly effective,” Dias said, at convincing former Tory supporters to reconsider their prior choice.

The research (Engage conducted) “was about identifying the issues that Harper is weak on. He’s vulnerable on health-care. He’s very vulnerable on the economy,” Dias said.

Unifor and the QFL’s invective towards Harper hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Conservatives.

Lebel, in a message to Conservative supporters, said the QFL has “secretive plans to target and defeat Conservatives. Even worse, they are working with other union groups to defeat Conservatives in 60 ridings across Canada. This is a clear attempt to return to the days when big money and secretive third parties influenced Canadian democracy.”

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, said he is convinced this strategy will work – if members vote.

“The reality is we represent 3.3 million workers and if you add one family member to that equation, you’re looking at potentially 6 million votes,” he said. “If they go out and vote and bring their family along ... there is no question we’re going to change the outcome.”

Dias said the messaging to Unifor members will focus on what he said were the Conservatives’ attacks on unions, the government’s scaling back of health care funding and what he said was the poor performance of the Canadian economy.

“There are no restrictions on us communicating directly with our members,” he said. “We know which ridings they’re in, we know which ridings we’re targeting and we are very organized when it comes to our communications strategy.”


It's Time for Workers
to Demand the
Change They Want

Sid Ryan
Sept 7, 2015

Every generation of parents, from Canada’s First Peoples through each wave of immigration since, have trusted that hard work would deliver a brighter future and improved fortunes for their children and their grandchildren. However, despite record levels of education, today’s youth will become first generation in history to expect a lower standard of living than their parents.

For most of the last century, high school students could expect to graduate into well-paid jobs in manufacturing or other sectors that allowed them to buy a home, support a family and join the middle class. Their counterparts today are graduating from college or university with unprecedented levels of student debt only to wind up wallowing in low-paying service jobs that offer no security, limited benefits and little room for advancement.

Over nearly a decade in office, the Harper Conservatives have engineered a dramatic reversal of fortune across Canada that is driving down wages and threatening to leave future generations behind. For the first time since the 1950s, employment rates have dropped and new job creation has hit the skids. Even in Canada’s economic epicenter, barely 50 percent of workers can take comfort in full-time, permanent jobs.

For the country’s labour unions, this alarming workforce transformation is triggering a profound re-imagining of the labour movement. We are confronting the harsh reality that declining union density and an increasingly precarious workforce are dragging down wages and benefits faster than union standards can pull them up. Unions can no longer respond through self-preservation at the expense of other workers. A truly universal labour movement requires a bottom-up approach to worker action that is driven by a movement of all working people, the unemployed, the precariously employed, the retired and the many diverse communities who are being marginalized within today’s economy. The Ontario Federation of Labour, which has historically only given voice to unionized workers, is now partnering with diverse and vulnerable communities to mount a vigorous defence for the rights and interests of every worker.

For Canada’s voters, the façade of the Conservative economic restructuring has crumbled away. A falling Canadian dollar, plummeting oil prices and the recent backslide into a second recession give the lie to the Conservative claim to be sound fiscal managers. However, for many Canadians, it is the deepening income inequality, wage stagnation and cuts to social programs that are causing voters to look for a more balanced road to shared prosperity.

When Albertans went to the polls last spring in Canada’s Conservative heartland, the result was the punishing defeat of a 40-year-old Conservative Dynasty and an unprecedented mandate for the Alberta New Democratic Party. Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley campaigned on a bold commitment to corporate tax fairness, the environment and a $15 minimum wage – the same hallmarks of Thomas Mulcair’s platform for Canada’s NDP.

What was mistaken at first as simply an Alberta election upset, is looking more and more like a federal forecast. Those who are fed up with corruption in Ottawa, blanket support for corporate Canada and an inexcusable indifference to inequality are seeing the NDP as the better choice.

Around barbecues and campfires across the country, Canadians may be inclined to spend this Labour Day weekend lamenting the end of summer but there is also cause to look optimistically towards the future. The federal election on October 19 will provide and opportunity for voters to chart a new course for Canada. In the weeks and months that follow, we must work together to make the Canadian economy work for everyone.


Ford-UAW members
approve strike
authorization vote

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
September 6, 2015

Ford Motor Co. workers have passed a strike authorization vote at 98.3 percent, according to a letter from Ford-UAW vice president Jimmy Settles Saturday.

“I am pleased with both the high margin of support and high turnout as nearly 80% of our membership took part in the voting process,” Settles said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing our negotiations with Ford Motor Company and I thank our membership for their input and for standing in solidarity with us.”

Settles said the vote is “a tremendous vote of confidence for the national negotiating team.” on Thursday the Ford-UAW team released a Youtube video saying they are working for the very best contract for members and don’t expect to make concessions.

Union workers at General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV both passed strike authorization votes at 97 percent. The votes are procedural and give the union the ability to call for a strike if necessary. It does not mean there will be a strike.

This is the first year since 2007 that the union can strike GM or FCA. The union agreed not to strike either company during the 2011 contract negotiations as a condition of the companies’ government bailouts.

The labor contract with all three automakers expires at midnight on Sept. 14.


China's falling auto sales
will hit GM, Ford, Fiat

Greg Keenan
Globe and Mail
Sept 5, 2015

General Motors Co. could suffer the most damage from falling auto sales in China, but its crosstown rival Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA) will also be affected, brokerage firm Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC says in a new report.

"The China slowdown is not jut a GM issue," analysts Adam Jonas, Jack Yeung and Ravi Shanker wrote.

They were commenting on the impact of slowing vehicle sales in the world's largest market, where GM and the rest of the world's auto makers have been spending billions of dollars in recent years and adding dozens of assembly plants to take advantage of what has been a bonanza. But deliveries tumbled 17 per cent in July to a 17-month low as overall growth in the Chinese economy slowed.

GM has the highest exposure to China among the old Detroit Three auto makers, the analysts noted. China provided 33 per cent of GM's final profit in 2014, compared with 27 per cent of Ford's and a fraction of the profit turned out by FCA.

The slow pace of FCA's build-up in China is a bonus, the Morgan Stanley analysts said, but they noted that the market slowdown will affect medium-term growth and profitability, notably for its Jeep sport utility vehicles and its luxury Maserati cars.

Part of the issue for GM, the report said, is a shift in the market to sport utilities and crossovers and away from sedans, which represented 83 per cent of GM's sales in China last year.

GM chief executive officer Mary Barra noted on a conference call last month that the auto maker has introduced new sport utilities.

GM expects more volatility in China, Ms. Barra said, but "it hasn't changed our long-term view of China. We continue to believe that the market will grow."

Sales of GM vehicles fell 1.4 per cent in the first half, although market share rose to 14.6 per cent from 13.6 per cent a year earlier. Adjusted earnings before interest and taxes were flat at about $300-million (U.S.)

Ford CEO Mark Fields made similar comments on that auto maker's second-quarter conference call.

"It's clear that we've seen a market slowdown," Mr. Fields said.

But Ford forecasts sales of as many as 30 million vehicles in China annually in the next five to 10 years.

"So we are still very bullish on China, but it's going to go through its fluctuations."

Auto makers sold 24.1 million vehicles in China last year. Ford said it expects sales to drop to 23.6 million in 2015, but its share to rise slightly to 4.7 per cent from 4.6 per cent.


2016 Ford Shelby GT350R
Mustang is a track-ready

2016 Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang on the Pacific Coast Highway in California (Mark Hacking for The Globe and Mail)

Globe and Mail
September 4, 2015

The American performance car is enjoying a powerful renaissance. Last year saw the release of the high-horsepower straight-line specialists from Dodge, the scalded Hellcat twins, the Challenger and the Charger. This year saw the latest Chevrolet Corvette Z06 introduced and it's better than ever. GM also unveiled a pair of performance cars more attuned to European tastes in the ATS-V and CTS-V. All are headline-worthy.

Now, we have the much-anticipated Shelby versions of the latest Ford Mustang, the GT350 and its track-ready relation, the GT350R. If ever there were a time to start chanting "U-S-A! U-S-A!", this would be that time. Fifty years ago, the first Shelby Mustangs in history, the 1965 GT350 and GT350R, were prepared under the watchful eye of the legend himself, Carroll Shelby. For all sorts of reasons, then, the time is right for a new Shelby – and the car Ford is calling the best Mustang yet.

In engineering this modern version, an inspired balance has been struck: The Shelby is a throwback infused with just the right amount of new technology. The end result: A rear-wheel drive, V-8-engined, manual-transmission sports car with 21st-century bits and pieces to keep things interesting.

The drive experience took place in two iconic locations: along the traffic-laden Pacific Coast Highway from Monterey to Big Sur, and around Laguna Seca, the quick circuit cut into the rolling hills of nearby Salinas. The racetrack proved the more illuminating: It offered the chance to drive the 350 and 350R back-to-back.

First off, the Shelby GT350 is a fast car. While the manufacturer did not quote acceleration figures, the car hurtles to 100 km/h in about 3.7 seconds. A Torsen rear differential provides better traction off the line and in the corners; there's also a weighty clutch for increased hamstring engagement and a robust 6-speed manual from the sultans of shift at Tremec.

The Shelby has five drive modes, including two for closed-course activities – track (for when you need to turn corners) and drag (for when you don't). These modes trigger adjustments to the ABS, stability control, traction control, steering feel, exhaust note, throttle response and adaptive dampers. In track mode, the driver has more freedom to explore the limits – meaning, you can drift around corners if you have the huevos. The level of grip coming from the custom-designed Michelin tires is profound, though, so when the rear eventually breaks loose, it's best to have the area cleared of innocent bystanders.

While the two versions of the Shelby share the same 5.2-litre V-8 engine and output is identical, the 350R is an even more focused version of the Mustang. The car has been stripped of weight, sports more powerful aerodynamic devices and features different Michelin tires mounted on carbon fibre wheels. There's also a different steering wheel and racier Recaro bucket seats.

Eight laps of any track doesn't equate to much time to compare two cars. But while the GT350 felt capable of quick laps when pushed, the GT350R was immediately more nimble and more planted – and by a surprisingly large margin. The grip was so prodigious, there was no opportunity to come close to the limits of the Brembo braking system or to hang the back end out.

Final analysis: The Ford Shelby GT350R Mustang is a street-legal race car, plain and simple.

You'll like this car if ... You like your performance cars old-school and powerful.

•Base price: $79,499
•Engine: 5.2-litre V-8
•Transmission/Drive: 6-speed manual/rear-wheel drive
•Fuel economy (litres/100 km): TBD
•Alternatives: BMW M4, Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Dodge Challenger Hellcat, Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG

•Looks: If you're a fan of the latest-generation Mustang, you're going to love the Shelby. The carbon-fibre body kit, revised grille, large rear spoiler and devil-red cobra logo leave no room for any doubt whatsoever – the Shelby is all business from the word go.
•Interior: There are some slick touches here, such as the Alcantara-covered steering wheel and the custom-designed bucket seats. But the interior of the Shelby won't impress anyone accustomed to high-end sports cars from German manufacturers.
•Performance: The "regular" Shelby GT350 is a quick car, as expected with 526 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque. Strip away 55 kilograms, add extra downforce, bolt on carbon-fibre wheels and the result is the GT350R, a certifiable track monster.
•Technology: The standard GT350R doesn't have air conditioning or an audio system … but you can add them back in as options. The Shelby does feature those five drive modes and a customizable heads-up display with a bar graph that shows the driver precisely when to shift gears.
•Cargo: The back seat has been removed from the GT350R, so you could conceivably toss some groceries in the hollowed-out shell where the seats used to be. The Shelby also has a trunk.

The verdict


A formidable track car worthy of the Shelby name.



Bill Ford:
Automaker discussing
UAW healthcare pool

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, Jr. at the 2015 National Negotiations Opening Day in the Cass Technical High School gymnasium, Thursday morning, July 23, 2015. - Todd McInturf

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
Sept 3, 2015

Inkster — Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford on Wednesday confirmed the Dearborn automaker is discussing a healthcare plan that would pool together active salaried and hourly United Auto Workers members from all three Detroit automakers as part of national contract negotiations with the union.

"We're discussing it and we'll see where it goes, but again, it's way too early," he told a small group of reporters at a charity event marking the 10th anniversary of the Ford Volunteer Corp. The current contract between UAW members and automakers expires Sept. 14.

The Detroit News first reported last month that an active worker healthcare pool was one option pushed by the UAW as they sent their demands to automakers. UAW President Dennis Williams first discussed the idea of the pool in a June roundtable with reporters at the union's Detroit headquarters.

A co-op could pool all active salaried and hourly workers to help reduce automakers' rising health care costs and maintain benefits for its members in the future — similar to what the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association, or VEBA, does for the current 860,000 UAW retirees and dependents.

"I don't think there's any other way," UAW President Dennis Williams told The News. "I've walked through this several ways; I just don't have any other answer. I do believe this will work. It's worked with the VEBA."

The system would be a shared responsibility among the UAW and automakers, but driven by union leaders increasingly interested in helping to manage ballooning health care costs and their members' welfare. The union doesn't expect the pool would cost workers or the companies more.

Ford was in Inkster Wednesday to announce two new initiatives for his Ford Volunteer Corps, which was founded in 2005.

The first is called the "Bill Ford Better World Challenge," a global grant program that will award $500,000 yearly to community service projects identified by company employees. Ford is contributing $250,000 to the grant, and $250,000 will be matched by the automaker.

The second initiative is called "Thirty Under 30," in which Ford selects 30 employees younger than 30 for a yearlong course to learn civic engagement and leadership skills.

In its 10 years, the Volunteer Corps has completed 1 million hours of community service, finishing 9,000 projects in 40 countries.

"This is what I'm most proud of," Ford said. "It's what we really stand for as a company."



Time Warner orders 540 Ford
F-150s as supply climbs

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
September 2, 2015

Ford Motor Co. has said it plans to focus on filling fleet orders for its popular F-150 pickup through the remainder of the year, and on Tuesday the automaker said Time Warner Cable has placed an order for 540.

It's among the top 10 biggest orders for the aluminum-body pickup — mining company Barrick Gold USA placed the first order in February for 35 trucks — and a sign that supply levels are finally becoming sufficient after a lengthy changeover to the new model. As well, frame shortage led to months of suppressed sales.

F-Series sales rose 4.7 percent in August as the pickups topped the 70,000 sales mark for the first time this year. The automaker said it has about 90,000 F-150s in its inventory — a large drop from the 173,000 it had at this time last year, but about 3,000 more than two months ago. Ford expects inventory levels will normalize by the end of the quarter.

"We have a much better inventory position and product flow; we're filling our dealer lots and will begin filling more commercial fleet orders," Mark LaNeve, Ford's head of marketing, sales and service, said in a Tuesday conference call with reporters and analysts.

Of the 71,000 F-Series sales in August, about 70 percent were to retail customers and 30 percent were to fleets. LaNeve said it's normally a 60/40 percent split.

As inventory levels rise, Ford has increased its incentives. Ford's F-Series incentives last month totaled $4,700, a $700 increase from a year ago, but in line with the overall segment average. Average selling prices continued to be strong at $42,500, a $2,000 increase from a year ago.

"We always want (incentives) to be lower, but we need to compete in the market," LaNeve said, adding he doesn't "see any "dramatic swings on the horizon."


FCA sales up 1.7%; Ford
up 5.4%; GM down 0.7%

Michael Martinez and
Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

September 1, 2015

Detroit's three automakers on Tuesday reported better-than-expected August sales as SUVs and trucks continued to drive the market.

Ford Motor Co. said its August sales rose 5.4 percent on continued strong demand for its new products, particularly SUVs like the Edge and Explorer. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported a 1.7 percent year-over-year increase in a month some analysts had predicted would end the automaker's streak of monthly sales gains dating back to March 2010. And General Motors Co. said its August sales of 270,480 fell 0.7 percent — better than some analysts had predicted — as the automaker continues to pull back on sales to rental fleets.

Many analysts expected a drop in sales since Labor Day is late this year, and the sales from the holiday weekend will fall under September's figures instead of August last year.

"Almost in every case, companies did better than we anticipated," said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for AutoTrader.com, in a call with reporters. "Even ones that were down, weren't down as much as we thought they would be."

Analysts said the stock market volatility does not appear to have affected new car sales. And with September sales including Labor Day sales, analysts predict September sales will be strong.

GM said its GMC brand sales increased 3.5 percent and Buick sales rose 0.6 percent. Chevrolet sales fell 1.5 percent and Cadillac sales slipped 5.5 percent.

"GM's retail sales increase far outpaced the industry in August, and we have grown our retail share for five months in a row compared to last year," Kurt McNeil, GM's U.S. vice president of sales operations, said in a statement.

The Detroit automaker said its retail sales rose 5.9 percent last month, while fleet sales were down 24 percent. Most of that decrease stems from a 38 percent decline in rental deliveries, or about 15,000 vehicles year-over-year.

Ford sold 234,237 new cars and trucks last month for its best August sales in nine years.

"Customer demand for our newest vehicles made August a strong month for Ford," Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, said in a statement. "Improved availability helped make August the strongest sales month this year for F-Series."

Ford was paced by its SUV sales, which rose 12.3 percent. Edge sales rose 35.6 percent and Explorer sales rose 22 percent.

The automaker is starting to increase supply of its popular F-150 pickup, which led to a 4.7 percent increase for its F-Series trucks last month. Ford's inventory has risen to about 90,000 F-150s. This time last year, the automaker had an inventory of 173,000 trucks. Ford hopes to be at full supply of its profitable pickup by the end of the third quarter.

Lincoln sales increased 6 percent in August, thanks mostly to strong sales of the Navigator and MKC crossover. Lincoln's SUV sales rose 17 percent.

The luxury brand just launched its redesigned MKX SUV, and the new vehicle is selling after an average of 18 days on dealer lots.

FCA reported its best August sales since 2002 and its Jeep brand had its best sales month ever, as sales rose 17.5 percent to 80,804. The Ram Truck brand also posted a 6.1 percent sales gain, and the Fiat brand also squeaked out a small sales gain. Dodge and Chrysler brand sales both were down compared to August 2014.

"In spite of a tough 2014 comparison and extreme stock market volatility, our dealers' competitive spirit kicked in and propelled us to our 65th-consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases," said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. Sales for FCA, in a statement. "Our Jeep brand turned in a double-digit increase while eight individual models, including four Jeep brand vehicles, set sales records. FCA US topped the 200,000-unit threshold in August for the second time this year."

Kia Motors America reported best-ever August sales, up 7.7 percent from a year ago.

"Kia has outpaced the industry all year, and that trend continued in August as we set our fourth consecutive monthly sales record despite significant turbulence in the stock market and not having the benefit of Labor Day weekend sales," said Michael Sprague, chief operating officer of Kia Motors America, in a statement.

Nissan North America Inc. said its U.S. August sales slipped 0.8 percent overall to 133,351. Nissan brand sales were down 2 percent, while Infiniti sales rose 16.1 percent.

Toyota Motor Corp. on Tuesday said sales fell 8.8 percent compared to the same time a year ago. The Toyota brand, which heavily relies on car sales, fell 10.5 percent, while its luxury Lexus brand saw sales rise 2.1 percent. Volkswagen of America also posted a 8.1 percent decrease.

American Honda Motor Co. Inc. said its sales also fell 6.9 percent in August. Honda brand sales declined 7.5 percent and Acura sales dropped 1.1 percent from August 2014.

Kelley Blue Book predicted auto sales will fall 4 percent , while TrueCar predicts a 2.9 percent drop. Typically, holiday deals over Labor Day are counted in August's numbers, but the holiday falls later this year. There's also one fewer selling day this year compared to August 2014.

Automakers last month reported vehicle sales of more than 1.5 million in July, a 5.3 percent increase from a year ago.


3 Ways Bill 31 Changes the
Rules of the Road in Ontario

by Elliott Silverstein
August 31, 2015

 On June 2nd, the Ontario Legislature passed Bill 31, also known as the “Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act”. The new legislation received unanimous support from all three political parties, a feat that is not easily obtained in the Legislature.

CAA has long advocated for stronger penalties for distracted driving and for the added protection of tow trucks drivers while working on Ontario’s roads, two items that were addressed through this bill.

The Bill also addresses numerous road safety issues that impact anyone who uses our roads, regardless of your mode of transportation. Here are three ways Bill 31 can affect you and your driving habits.

Distracted Driving

 Recognizing that distracted driving is a significant and growing issue on our roads, the bill allows for an increase in fines. Currently, the fine is set at $280, and it will increase to between $300 to $1,000 per infraction. Along with the increased fine, three demerit points will be applied upon a distracted driving conviction.

For over a decade, CAA has advocated on the issue of distracted driving. Our initial campaign back in 2006 concentrated on a cellphone ban for novice or new drivers. Through Bill 31, distracted driving has been added to the list of conditions for novice drivers under the province’s Graduated Licensing System (GLS). Penalties include licence suspensions for first and second offences and upon third offence, removal from the GLS, requiring novice drivers to start the process from the beginning.

These are significant and necessary steps in curbing the rise of distracted driving on our roads, and in reducing collisions, injuries and fatalities on our roads.

It only takes a brief moment to dramatically change your life or someone else’s, and that’s why CAA continues encouraging drivers to put the phone down and away, and to focus on the road.


A couple of years ago, the Chief Coroner’s office conducted an inquest into cycling deaths, and offered a number of recommendations that ultimately enabled the creation of the #CycleON cycling strategy, both of which CAA participated in. The Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act helps enable a shared road environment and promotes greater safety for our road users.

The legislation responds to requests from municipalities and stakeholders to promote cycling as active transportation and improve cyclist safety in a number of ways:

  •  Cyclists are now permitted to use the paved shoulders on unrestricted provincial highways
  • Where practicable, drivers should maintain a distance of at least one metre when passing cyclists.
  • Increasing the fine range for convictions of ‘dooring’ cyclists to between $300 and $1,000 and raising the demerit points to three.
  • Raising the maximum fine to a set fine amount between $60 to $500 for not using bicycle lights or other reflective materials
  • Permitting the use of flashing red lights as a safety feature on bicycles.

Slow Down Move Over

Since 2011, CAA has been advocating to the provincial government that Slow Down Move Over requirements be extended to tow truck operators that are providing service on the side of the road. After four attempts through legislation by CAA to add tow trucks to existing Slow Down Move Over legislation, Bill 31 provides a safer working environment for tow truck drivers, and the motorists they serve and bring to safety.

For tow truck drivers, their workplace is Ontario’s roadway, and CAA is pleased to see Ontario become the sixth province in Canada, alongside nearly every American state, to have Slow Down Move Over legislation protect tow truck drivers.

The legislation expands the current Slow Down, Move Over requirements found in the Highway Traffic Act. Tow trucks stopped on the shoulder of the highway, and providing service with their amber lights activated will be included in legislation. Motorists must slow down and move over to the next lane, similar to the provision given to police, ambulance and fire services.

One other important area of the bill is drug impaired driving. For the first time, the provincial government has introduced rules for drug impaired driving. These rules mirror those already in place for alcohol-impaired driving including a license suspension of up to 90 days, and a seven day vehicle impoundment.

 As an advocate for road users and road safety, CAA is pleased that Bill 31 has become law. By tackling new and emerging challenges, including driving under the influence of drugs, the bill address both today’s environment and prepares for tomorrow’s. Impairment while operating a vehicle on our roads not only poses a threat to the driver, but other road users including pedestrians and cyclists. Bill 31 is a critical step in addressing these issues.

While it took many years and numerous attempts with prior legislation with all three political parties, the passing of the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act is a significant achievement for CAA. The unanimous support by MPPs highlights the importance and depth the Bill will have on anyone using Ontario’s road network. Through the efforts of government and stakeholders, we hope that all road users will see the changes in this Bill and begin to adjust their own habits to help ensure Ontario has the safest road network in North America.

See all of the rule changes and other key facts about Bill 31


The legendary Shelby
GT350 Mustang returns

Shelby GT 350

Henry Payne
The Detroit News
August 30, 2015

In the beginning there was the 1965 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang. The first performance mule based on the wildly popular Dearborn coupe. The first Mustang developed between Ford and racing genius Carroll Shelby. The first, track-focused pony car.

Rejoice Mustang faithful. The legend has returned.

Just in time for its 50th birthday, the Shelby GT350 is here — the first Ford-engineered GT350 since the first generation went out of production in 1968. On Wednesday, I had a chance to put it the test on one of America's most challenging race tracks, Mazda Raceway in Laguna Seca, California. Lookout Camaro Z28. The muscle car wars are going nuclear.

In that great racetrack in the sky Carroll Shelby is smiling. The GT350 not only lives up to his name, it promises a car as comfortable on the street as it is fearsome on the track. But let's begin on the track, where the GT350 made its name collecting Sports Car Club of America trophies by the bag-full.

As part of its new performance division, Ford has developed a coven of assault vehicles from the Ford GT supercar to the Ford Focus RS. The GT350 is Mustang's contribution, featuring the highest horsepower, normally-aspirated V-8, Ford has ever made. The 5.2-liter mill develops a stunning 526 horsepower, a number that dwarfs performance coupes like the BMW M4 and Cadillac ATS-V and approaches the lofty numbers of supercars like the Porsche Turbo S and Nissan GT-R.

Ford achieves this feat using lightweight, flat-crank engine, a technology rarely used except by Ferrari and purpose-built race cars — that allows the 317-cube V-8 to spin to stratospheric 8,250 RPM. Not even Ferrari's flat-crank, $240,000 458 (which makes 570 horsepower if you're wondering) tips the scales as light as the 'Stang.

Yet the GT350 begins at just $49,995 — pocket change for a Ferrari owner. Even a loaded GT350 R will set you back just $66,495, well south of an air conditioning-less Camaro Z28.

With my foot buried at 8,000 RPM and 125 mpg over the crest into Laguna Seca's blind Turn One, the sound is glorious. This is not the ground-shaking V-8 rumble I'm familiar with from classic 600-RPM V-8s, like the Shelby GT500 drag-racer that Ford has made since 2007. No, this is more like the high-pitched bellow I hear from NASCAR V-8s that belt out 850 horses at 9,000 RPM.

But the Mustang is more than a pony with an engine. Strapped to Mustang's new, sixth-generation chassis featuring the badge's first independent rear suspension and fitted with gummy, specially-made Michelin sport shoes the GT350 is remarkably nimble for a 3,700-pound beast.

As a result, the pony combines the finest attributes of the old, musclebound GT500 and the corner-carving Boss 302. This combination of high-revving power and handling inspired Ford to not only benchmark the car to Camaro's ferocious Z28 track start, but to look beyond to Porsche's 911 GT3.

A stretch, you say? Early testing shows the GT350 R — which saves another 100 pounds from the standard GT350 with tricks like carbon-fiber wheels and no backseats — lapping in the low 1.30s at Laguna alongside the Porsche.

Yet this track-focused thing is surprisingly docile on the street. The V-8 makes a pleasing rumble at ignition but quietly strode the boulevards of Southern California in under 3000 rpm. The interior is blessed with Recaro seats, but otherwise GT350 buyers can opt for all the amenities of a Mustang GT with the "tech" package — including the latest version of Ford's communication system, SYNC 3.

Even owners of the wicked GT350 R — distinguished by its high rear spoiler and first-ever carbon-fiber wheels — can upgrade from the AC-less base to a "electronics" package with all the creature comforts.

Mustang has thrown down the gauntlet to Camaro with the GT350. And with its lightweight, Cadillac ATS-based chassis, the sixth-gen Camaro is sure to respond. Put in your ear plugs folks, the muscle car wars are just beginning.


UAW-Chrysler workers pass
strike authorization vote

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
August 29, 2015

UAW-Chrysler Department Vice President Norwood Jewell on Friday said the union's locals had passed strike authorization votes at an overwhelming 97 percent as the union and Auburn Hills-based automaker continue contract negotiations.

Strike authorization votes are procedural measures taken by union members at all three automakers. Each year, the votes pass with an overwhelming margin and allow the union to call for a strike if they determine the automakers have not bargained in good faith. This is the first year since 2007 that the union can call a strike against Fiat Chrysler or GM.

Votes at the GM locals were expected to wrap up this week, but no totals were available. Ford's votes were expected to continue into next week.

In a two-page update to UAW members, Jewell said the union had been working "tirelessly" to push their demands to the automaker.

"Our team has done a great job of scouring through our current collective bargaining agreements," he wrote. "To date, there has been hundreds of carry over language identified and tentatively agreed to."

In a similar memo sent to UAW-GM members last Friday, Vice President Cindy Estrada said the union was "beginning to work longer days in pursuit of the best possible outcome for each demand."

Unions presented their demands to the automakers last week. The two sides in the coming weeks will hammer out a contract that will touch on pay, health care, product allocations and a number of other issues.


Bronco might ride again
at Michigan Assembly

Ford Motor Co. dusted off its Bronco nameplate for a concept vehicle at the 2004 North American International Auto Show. Analysts believe a resurrected Bronco could help Ford take on Jeep.

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
August 27, 2015

In addition to resurrecting the Ranger, Ford Motor Co.'s plans for the Michigan Assembly Plant may include bringing back a Bronco midsize sport utility vehicle, according to a report by Bloomberg News on Wednesday.

The Detroit News first reported late Tuesday that Ford plans to again sell the Ranger midsize pickup in the United States and build it at Michigan Assembly in Wayne. Ford discontinued the small truck in 2011, but newer versions are sold in 180 markets around the world. They currently are built in Argentina, South Africa, Thailand and Nigeria.

The Bloomberg story, which cited an unnamed source who asked not to be identified, said the Bronco would be built on a pickup frame, allowing it to be built alongside the Ranger. Analysts say a second product at the plant like the Bronco could take up most of the volume at the plant. They see the Bronco as a more rugged mid-size utility to pair with its Explorer and other sport utility offerings to fight Jeep and help take advantage of the white-hot SUV segment.

"I think Ford has an opportunity to develop an SUV that's got a little tougher image with a name that's very well-recognized, for better or worse," said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Autotrader.com. "I think there's room in their lineup for another (SUV) with a different flavor."

Ford declined to discuss any plans. The automaker's lineup includes the full-size Expedition, mid-size Explorer and compact Escape, along with the full-size Flex crossover.

Ford Flex sales have sunk 16.1 percent through the first seven months of 2015, while Expedition sales have fallen 10.9 percent, according to Autodata Corp. Explorer sales are up 18.1 percent through the first seven months of the year.

The Bronco, which drew national attention as the getaway vehicle for O.J. Simpson, was discontinued in 1996 after being built for 30 years at Ford's plant in Wayne. Its successor, the Expedition, was also built in Wayne before moving to Kentucky Truck. Ford showed a Bronco concept at the 2004 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Plans to resurrect the Bronco likely come as Ford watches Jeep's sales success.

Jeep in July marked 64 consecutive months of year-over-year U.S. sales gains. Last month was Jeep's best July sales ever thanks to offerings like the Wrangler, new Cherokee and Renegade. It has set a sales record in every month dating back to November 2013.

That success — and the success of the segment as a whole — is likely to continue.

"We don't see an end yet to the growth in the sport utility segment," Krebs said.

Ford has entered contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers. Plans to bring new vehicles to its Wayne plant are part of those talks. Ford announced in July it will end production of the Ford Focus and C-Max at Michigan Assembly in 2018; those cars likely will be built in Mexico.

A final product decision must be agreed to with the union, which will want to determine if the products best fit with the Wayne plant and its nearly 4,500 workers. The final decision must also be agreed to by Ford's board of directors.


Ford plans to build Ranger
at Michigan Assembly

At Go Further South Africa 2015, Ford unveiled the new tougher and smarter Ranger. Ford Motor Co. wants to resurrect its popular Ranger truck in North America and build the midsize pickup at the Michigan Assembly Plant, according to sources with knowledge of Ford’s plans.  Colin Mileman, Ford Motor Company

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
August 26, 2015

The Dearborn automaker has entered contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers with plans to bring the Ranger to the plant in Wayne in 2018, said the sources, who couldn't speak publicly because of the sensitive nature of the talks. They said the final decision is up for discussion in the talks now underway, and must be agreed to with the union and then Ford's board of directors.

The Ranger — which would replace the Focus and C-Max after production of those cars likely heads to Mexico — represents the kind of potentially high-profit, high-volume vehicle the union desires and likely would demand before members would ratify any contract proposal. The two sides must agree that the Ranger would be a good fit for the plant and its nearly 4,500 workers. For Ford, the pickup would mark the return to a small — but growing — midsize truck segment that would help it meet stricter fleet-wide fuel economy standards demanded by the federal government.

"There's a real hunger for midsize trucks right now," said Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. "Once upon a time, there were a lot of midsize trucks in this market. The ones that are available are cashing in on the demand."

New offerings like General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon helped midsize truck sales rise recently after a long decline. But through the first seven months of 2015, the segment represented just 2.1 percent of the overall market, according to Edmunds.com.

It's unclear if the Ranger will be the only product brought into the 5 million-square-foot Wayne plant. Five vehicles currently are built there — the Ford Focus, Focus Electric, Focus ST, C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi — and workers made about 265,000 vehicles last year.

Ford in July said it was pulling production of all its vehicles out of Michigan Assembly in 2018, but both the union and automaker have said repeatedly that they expect to avoid shuttering the plant and hope to introduce a new product there.

"We actively are pursuing future vehicle alternatives to produce at Michigan Assembly and will discuss this issue with UAW leadership as part of the upcoming negotiations," spokeswoman Kristina Adamski said in an emailed statement. Ford does not comment on future products.

Ford now builds the Ranger in South Africa, Argentina, Thailand and Nigeria for 180 overseas markets. Ford hasn't imported the small trucks to the U.S. in part because of a 25-percent tariff on foreign-built pickups, known as the "chicken tax." The tax got its name because it was imposed in the 1960s as payback for a German tariff on chicken.

The last North America-built Ranger was part of a fleet order for Orkin Pest Control and rolled off the assembly line in December 2011 at Ford's now-shuttered Twin Cities Assembly Plant in Minnesota.

"It was a huge seller for them for a while," Brauer said.

Revival forecast for segment

The midsize pickup market has shrunk considerably over the past three decades, from a peak of about 1.4 million sold in the U.S. in 1986 to a low of about 227,000 in 2013, according to Edmunds.com. Industry analysts expect the segment will grow to around 300,000 in the coming years.

Through the first seven months of the 2015, Toyota's Tacoma holds 50.1 percent of the market share, according to Edmunds. It's followed by the Colorado at 23.1 percent, the Nissan Frontier at 18.5 percent and the Canyon at 8.4 percent.

"The reintroduction of the Colorado and Canyon ended the precipitous market-share slide that the compact truck segment was on," said Jeremy Acevedo, an Edmunds.com analyst.

Ford sold more than 6.6 million Rangers in the U.S. over its 29-year history. Sales peaked in 1999 at around 350,000 but dropped steadily until its final year in 2011, when Ford sold 70,832.

"It was the same basic truck from the mid-'90s; it was markedly smaller than other midsize trucks, less powerful, less comfortable and less refined," Brauer said. "It just never evolved. Basically, it became obsolete."

Ford at the time was coming out of the recession and looking to streamline its product lineup, and it already had committed to a number of new designs for other vehicles for both its Ford and Lincoln brands.

"There were more important vehicles for them to launch that were more important for their money," said Autotrader.com senior analyst Michelle Krebs.

The biggest concern in resurrecting the Ranger would be that it would cut into sales of the full-size Ford F-150, analysts say. But some argue the two segments are distinct enough to draw two separate shoppers. The F-150 is the best-selling vehicle in the U.S.

"It's a very different customer," Brauer said. "There's a lot of people who like the idea of having an easy-to-drive, easy-to-park truck that's less expensive."

Average selling prices for midsize trucks though the first seven months of this year is about $13,500 less than full-size trucks, Edmunds.com says.

The introduction of a more fuel-efficient truck — the Colorado can get about three more miles a gallon than Chevy's most fuel-efficient full-size Silverado — would also be beneficial to Ford as it and other automakers try to achieve a federally mandated lineup average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

Although Ford is introducing an updated 2016 Ranger overseas, analysts say a North American Ranger would likely need an upgrade by 2018 to include more safety and technology features.

Plant has built myriad autos

The UAW and Ford in the coming weeks are expected to discuss whether the Michigan Assembly Plant is the best fit for a midsize truck. Since it opened in 1957, the plant has produced everything from trucks and SUVs like the F-Series, Ford Bronco, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, to small cars like the Focus and C-Max.

The plant got new life after the industry meltdown in 2008-09. Former Ford CEO Alan Mulally pledged to the UAW to bring new production to Wayne in exchange for a competitive labor agreement.

Under terms of a $5.9 billion loan from the U.S. Energy Department, Michigan Assembly received a $550 million overhaul to make it a flexible plant capable of producing a number of green, fuel-efficient cars.

Despite the overhaul, the plant has struggled recently as demand for small, hybrid and electric vehicles has nosedived.

In January, President Barack Obama came to the plant to tout the resurgent American automotive industry, even as the plant was closed that week. In April, the automaker said it would cut a shift there, indefinitely laying off 673 hourly employees and 27 salaried employees on the "C Crew."

Potentially converting the plant to build midsize trucks "would really be making a statement about where the market is," Brauer said.

"I don't think you'd see someone like Ford jump into midsize trucks and be regretting it in a few short years."


Canadian Medical
Association urges health-care
strategy for seniors

The Globe and Mail
August 25, 2015

Reshaping the health system to deal with the onslaught of aging baby boomers is urgent and needs to be a political priority, the head of the Canadian Medical Association says.

"Addressing the growing and evolving health-care needs of Canada's aging population is one of the most pressing policy imperatives of our time," Dr. Chris Simpson told a news conference on Monday at the CMA's annual meeting.

"The country must act now to create a health strategy to ensure that all seniors have access to effective, integrated, affordable care."

He made the comments as the CMA, which represents the country's 80,000 physicians, residents and medical students, unveiled what it called a "policy framework to guide a national seniors' strategy for Canada."

The 33-page document calls for significant changes across the health-care continuum to make care more seamless and senior-friendly in the following areas:

Wellness and prevention: Pay attention to the social determinants of health and ensure seniors have adequate income, housing, food security and social connections to keep them in the community.

Primary care: Ensure seniors have a primary-care provider and a co-ordinator of their chronic-care needs.

Home care and community support: Provide sufficient long-term home care and support for unpaid caregivers.

Acute and specialty care: Address the lingering issue of wait times for surgery and deal with the "alternate level of care" problem – seniors living in hospitals because they have nowhere else to go.

Long-term care: Invest in infrastructure so there is an adequate number of beds, and so they are affordable, particularly for seniors with specialized needs, such as those with dementia.

Palliative care: Promote advance-care planning and ensure everyone gets palliative care at the end of life.

In a wide-ranging discussion, delegates to the CMA meeting identified a number of specific issues that are hampering the provision of care to seniors with chronic health conditions, such as the lack of electronic health records, the way health-care delivery is siloed in Canada, the absence of pharmacare, physician payment schemes that reward volume rather than quality of care, the lack of training in geriatrics and a lacklustre commitment to patient-centred care.

The overarching theme was that if care is going to be improved for the burgeoning population of seniors, it must begin with better co-ordination.

Dr. David Naylor, who headed the federal Advisory Panel on Healthcare Innovation, also stressed this as an essential element of reform.

In a keynote address to the CMA meeting, he said that while Canadians love their medicare system – at least in theory – the reality is that "the scope is narrow and performance is middling."

Dr. Naylor said the main reason Canadians don't get good value for money when it comes to health spending is a lack of co-ordination of care. "The critical factor is integration of services," he said.

Right now, far too many patients, especially seniors with chronic conditions, are being cared for in hospitals rather than in the community and their care is disjointed, the CMA's report notes.

Fixing that will, among other things, require a reorganization of roles between various health professions, including physicians, nurses and pharmacists. "All health-care professionals are going to have to do their bit to deal with this grey tsunami," he said, stressing that many innovative solutions have been put in place across the country, but they are too rarely scaled up.

Dr. Naylor said policy-makers, and federal politicians in particular, need to take a leadership role to ensure this happens.

Dr. Simpson of the CMA also called for federal political parties to commit to a seniors' strategy during the current election campaign, and said he is confident they will.

"We know they're thinking about it. We know their hearts are in the right place," he said. "Now we want them to start talking about seniors' health care in the context of the election campaign so people can cast their votes accordingly."


Canadian, Mexican auto
parts makers warn of fallout
from TPP trade pact

Globe and Mail
August 24, 2015

Canadian and Mexican auto parts makers that collectively employ nearly one million workers are warning of dire consequences for manufacturing jobs if the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact is concluded without better terms for their sector.

They're worried about a concession sought by Tokyo in talks to create a Pacific Rim trade pact that would let Japanese auto makers ship cars and auto parts into North America duty free but with substantial content from non-TPP countries.

"If this provision were to come into force, our companies and workers would be placed in a competitively disadvantaged [position] in the North American market. [It] would seriously compromise our operations in the North American region, and we may be forced to significantly reduce our operations," write Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association (APMA) in Canada, and Oscar Aldin, executive vice-president of Mexico's Industria Nacional de Autopartes.

The United States, which is leading the Trans-Pacific negotiations among 12 countries stretching from Chile to Japan, provisionally agreed to Japan's request before Washington's NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico, were consulted on it.

Ottawa and Mexico City learned of this during the Maui round of TPP negotiations last month in Hawaii and this proved a major obstacle to clinching a deal as Washington had hoped.

Negotiators for Canada, Mexico and the U.S. have been meeting as recently as last week to resolve the deadlock. The U.S. has reportedly negotiated a fail-safe for itself so that if domestic auto sales slow in the United States because of a TPP violation then Washington can resurrect tariffs against Japanese autos.

Canadian officials say one of the biggest problems for them in the TPP auto-trade negotiations is that the provisional agreement on the matter between Washington and Tokyo stipulated a series of exemptions that allow even lower TPP content in imported parts and vehicles.

Right now, NAFTA rules stipulate that a car can be shipped without duties into Canada, the U.S. or Mexico if 62.5 per cent of it originates in these countries.

The minimum TPP content rules Canadian and Mexican auto-sector officials seek are higher than the 30 per cent for parts and 45 per cent for light-duty vehicles that sources say Japan and the U.S. had provisionally agreed to before talks stalled. Japanese auto makers want to be able to draw raw material and components from their supply chains in countries such as Thailand, not part of TPP negotiations.

Mr. Volpe and Mr. Aldin say their industries have made significant investments in Canada and Mexico over the past two decades. This has created "a dynamic automotive supply chain that benefits the Canadian, U.S. and Mexican economies through employment, economic output and an industry that today accounts for 20 per cent of all trade across the three NAFTA markets."

They are asking for Canada and Mexico not to settle for content rules for auto parts imports that allow tariff-free entry for goods that have less than 50 per cent of their content from TPP countries.

"We believe in the free market, but we strongly request a fair and competitive environment," the association heads write.

"As the TPP negotiations advance toward their final stage, we look forward to working with you in the weeks ahead to achieve this goal for a vital manufacturing industry across the three North American markets."

A spokesman for Mr. Fast declined to comment on the concerns raised by Canadian auto parts makers, a valuable sector in this country's economy.

Rick Roth would only say Ottawa is listening to stakeholders.

"As we've said time and time again, we're not going to negotiate this agreement through the media," Mr. Roth said.

"Our goal has always been to secure an ambitious outcome that would benefit all sectors of our economy, across all regions of our country. We look forward to continuing to pursue that objective," the Fast spokesman said.

"The Prime Minister will only sign an agreement that is in the best interest of Canadians."

Negotiations to create the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would include countries with a total of 40 per cent of the world's economic output, failed to reach a deal in Hawaii in late July.

Earlier this month, Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said the two biggest remaining obstacles were the lack of agreement on autos and dairy imports between Canada, the U.S., Japan and Mexico, saying if those four countries could settle their differences, then "I think we could complete this in a couple of days of sitting."


Reality, prosperity drive
auto talks perception

Daniel Howes,
The Detroit News
August 22, 2015

Prosperity isn't the only thing bargainers from the United Auto Workers and Detroit's Big Three automakers are managing. Perception is, too.

Behind the relative silence enveloping national contract talks less than four weeks before the current agreement expires Sept. 14, both sides understand the outcome of their wrangling will influence public images carefully crafted after bankruptcies, bailouts and the global financial meltdown.


Last month, UAW President Dennis Williams conducted a series of meetings with Wall Street investors. His aim: to share union priorities in advance of contract talks, including new proposals to control health care costs, and to gauge investors' thoughts on the UAW and its role in helping keep competitive General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

This month, the UAW-Ford is airing spots on NewsTalk-760 WJR reminding listeners that many of the markers of modern work-a-day life — the five-day work week and company-paid health care, among others — were first achieved in UAW-Big Three contracts.

"Before that, there was no such thing as a weekend," narrates Paul W. Smith, WJR's morning host. "Workplace safety regulations? Union. Health care and paid holidays? Yes, those too."

In a second spot: "Fair wages, hours and working conditions, retirement health care and maternity leave — all hallmarks of a civilized society that were won by organized labor."

The message is clear. A union forged in the confrontations of the 1930s, built in the post-war years, humbled by competition, entitlement and inept corporate management and seared by bankruptcy is positioning itself as an accomplished, mature partner attuned to the realities of competition at home and abroad.

That's no coincidence. The PR push, and Williams' quiet, business-like approach to bargaining, signal not just a determination to deliver for ratification what's considered a fair contract. They're an effort to bolster the union's image as bargainers push for contracts that enrich members without undermining the automakers' competitive edge.

This year's contract talks are shaping up to be every bit as consequential as those in 2007: Automakers won the rights to establish a second-tier wage rate and to off-load retiree health care costs to a union-controlled trust, in a desperate bid to manage decline.

Times have changed, radically, powered by an expanding market, pent-up demand and lower break-even points that have combined to deliver record profitability and fairly stable market share.

In the four years of the contract expiring next month, the automakers have booked more than $70 billion in adjusted North American operating profit; union members have reaped hefty profit-sharing payouts, especially at GM and Ford; for the first time in some two generations, the rich U.S. market has re-emerged as the profit engine driving all three companies.

The result is raised expectations among the rank-and-file and heightened risks that one side (or both) could overplay its hand, culminating in a confrontation that would re-ignite charges that a "New Detroit" wise to competitive reality is no different and no more astute than what it allegedly replaced.

The challenge is striking a balance between improving aspects of the next contract without significantly raising fixed costs — even though labor constitutes roughly 7 percent of the cost of a finished vehicle — and improving the competitive position of automakers still reaping most of their profits from trucks and SUVs.

Members are expected soon to overwhelmingly approve strike authorizations, a routine move in contract talks. More significantly, the UAW is expected to present contract proposals to the automakers soon, perhaps as early as the end of this week.

It will not be easy. Fundamental tensions are pulling on both sides: the UAW wants base-wage increases for "legacy workers" and second-tier hires even as it pledges to keep the automakers competitive.

The automakers say they build where they sell. But Ford is moving production of its Focus compacts and C-Max hybrids to Mexico from Michigan Assembly in Wayne. GM is said to be mulling the possibility of producing a compact Buick crossover in China and exporting it to the U.S. market. And most of the full-size trucks assembled in Mexico by GM and FCA are exported back to the States.

Looking for flashpoints in the coming weeks? Those are it. UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada nailed it when she said this week that American taxpayers didn't bail out GM and what became FCA so the companies could ship production overseas or import Chinese-built Buicks.

As unpopular as a UAW strike likely would be next month (and it would be, considering recent history), exporting production overseas amid the most profitable years since the 1960s likely would prove a similar PR headache for the automakers.

The next four weeks are about bridging the differences without, once again, tarnishing an image that has taken years to rehabilitate. If the new Detroit is real, this a chance to prove it.


UAW chief blasts Trump
as 'enemy' of middle class

David Shepardson
Melissa Burden
and Daniel Howes
The Detroit News
August 21, 2015

United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams on Wednesday branded Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump "an enemy" of the American middle class, and warned automakers against expanding production outside the United States.

Williams rejected Trump's suggestion that Detroit's Big Three automakers move plants to lower-wage parts of the United States. He said that would hurt workers and weaken manufacturing in the industrial Midwest — as would plans to move production from the United States to Mexico.

"I think Donald Trump's comments demonstrate what's wrong with this country. I think he is a prime example of why we need a huge change in this country," Williams told The Detroit News. "His comments about he's going to make America great one day and then talking about diminishing people's wages, to find less pay for them, is contradictory and he is an enemy — in my mind — of the middle class. He ought to do what he does best: build hotels."

Deep in labor negotiations with Detroit automakers — the current contract expires at midnight Sept. 14 — Williams is working to boost wages among hourly workers and narrow the gap between so-called "legacy workers" and second-tier employees paid less. Some veteran UAW members haven't had a pay raise in a decade. But they have received hefty profit-sharing checks in recent years. Williams declined to comment on the ongoing labor talks.

Asked about reports that General Motors Co. may export the Chinese-made Buick Envision crossover to the United States, Williams said automakers sometimes "float something out in the media" to gauge reaction of union leaders and members. "I think it was a temperature test."

He said that investments in Mexico announced recently by GM and Ford Motor Co. haven't helped. "It's raised the temperature of our members. The bonuses that (executives) get, raises the temperature in the plant — so they haven't made it easy."

Trump: Shift work to South

In an interview with The News last week, Trump criticized investments by U.S. automakers, especially a $2.5 billion investment by Ford, in Mexico. He suggested automakers could reduce wages and still keep jobs in the U.S. by closing plants in Michigan and moving the work to lower-cost locations in the South.

"You can go to different parts of the United States and then ultimately you'd do full-circle; you'll come back to Michigan because those guys are going to want their jobs back even if it is less," Trump told The News. "We can do the rotation in the United States. It doesn't have to be in Mexico." After Michigan "loses a couple of plants — all of sudden you'll make good deals in your own area."

Williams says Trump is telling automakers "don't build in Mexico, but go somewhere else where you can find lower wages and take advantage of people. What's the difference? Philosophically, if we're going to have a middle class in this country, people have to have disposable incomes; they have to have purchasing power; they have to have a right to buy a house, a car; they've got to send their kids to school. There's a whole lot of things that we ought to be doing as a country, and Donald Trump is not about that."

Although wages are lower at non-union U.S. plants owned by foreign automakers, hourly employees for Detroit's Big Three are paid the same no matter what state they're in, under the terms of UAW contracts.

A spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, Hope Hicks, declined to comment Wednesday about Williams' remarks.

The union chief hasn't endorsed a presidential candidate, but Williams said he will "probably be on the campaign trail talking about Donald Trump." His predecessor, Bob King, spent a fair amount of time campaigning for President Barack Obama — even appearing in a rally in New Hampshire the day before the election to rally blue-collar voters.

Mexico investment boosted

Global automakers have announced more than $25 billion in investments in new plants and expansions in Mexico, which is now the world's fourth-largest auto exporter. Most of the vehicles, built by workers making as little as $9 an hour, are coming to the United States.

In April, Ford said it would add 3,800 jobs in Mexico as part of its $2.5 billion investment on top of the 11,300 Ford already employs there. The automaker repeatedly has said it is not closing any U.S. plants as a result of its Mexican expansion.

Last week, the automaker said it was shifting production of heavy trucks, the F-650 and F-750, from Mexico to a factory in Ohio.

Last month, Ford said it would end small-car production at its Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne. It didn't say where it would locate production, but some analysts have suggested the work will move to Mexico. The automaker has insisted it has no plans to close the Wayne plant and will add new production.

Trump repeatedly has said that if elected, he would not allow Ford to open a new plant in Mexico. At his campaign announcement speech in June, Trump said he would impose a 35 percent tax on every vehicle and part manufactured in the the plant. It isn't clear how Trump could legally single out one automaker for punitive taxes.

Ford is not the only domestic automaker expanding to Mexico. GM in December announced a $5 billion investment there over six years. GM has 14 manufacturing plants there which employ about 15,000.

In addition, analysts believe GM has plans to move production of some Buick models from the United States and Canada to Europe and China over the next several years. If GM did import the Buick Envision to the U.S., it would be the first Chinese vehicle to be sold here by an American automaker.

Most automakers have feared a backlash from sending Chinese made vehicles to the U.S.

Analysts say while GM and the other automakers likely have their production plans cemented, the UAW may be able to win a vehicle or two during negotiations.

"We are neck-deep in UAW negotiations," said Joe McCabe, president and CEO of AutoForecast Solutions LLC. "These could be bargaining chips on where the vehicle may or may not be built."

GM has not announced other markets for the Envision, now only sold in China. But Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive, believes it will be imported to the U.S. from China late next year or early in 2017.

Both McCabe and Schuster believe production of only the Buick LaCrosse and Enclave will stay in the U.S. over the next several years. They both predict the Verano sedan will move from the Orion Assembly Plant.

If GM continues to sell the Verano in the U.S., McCabe believes it will be produced only in China, where it's currently built for the Chinese market. Schuster also believe the car will be built only in China. McCabe expects the Canadian-built Regal will move to Europe in 2017, but Schuster believes production will move to China that year.

GM does not comment on production plans for future vehicles.


NAFTA countries reignite
negotiations over TPP
auto-parts dispute

The Globe and Mail
August 21, 2015

Negotiators for Canada, the U.S. and Mexico are meeting in Washington to try to break a deadlock over autos – one of the biggest stumbling blocks to a massive Pacific Rim trade pact between 12 countries.

They are facing pressure from firms in the Canadian and Mexican auto sectors for a better deal.

Canada's chief negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, Kirsten Hillman, is heading to the U.S. capital on Thursday to join discussions that sources say are part of an effort to clinch an accord by mid-September.

The three NAFTA countries are trying to settle a question with potential consequences for their respective manufacturing sectors: What portion of an auto part, or a car, must originate in this proposed trade zone to avoid tariffs?

Mexican auto-industry officials this week said a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal must guarantee that half of the content of cars is manufactured within signatory countries, and that the minimum content rule for auto parts is close to that portion.

And Canada's auto-parts manufacturing association said Wednesday it agrees with Mexico.

"We know that Canada must give a little to get a little and are prepared to support our negotiators in pursuit of a more balanced position. However, our interests are strongly aligned with the Mexicans' and we continue to have a strong technical working relationship with their advisers as well," said Flavio Volpe, president of Canada's Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association.

The minimum TPP content rules sought by Canadian and Mexican auto-sector officials are higher than the 30 per cent for parts and 45 per cent for light-duty vehicles that sources say Japan and the United States had provisionally agreed to before things stalled.

Negotiations to create the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would include countries from Japan to Chile and 40 per cent of the world's economic output, failed to reach a deal in Hawaii in late July. Officials at Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development had little to say on Wednesday, saying Ms. Hillman's visit to Washington was scheduled to last only one day.

Last week, Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said the two biggest remaining obstacles to an agreement are autos and dairy imports between Canada, the U.S., Japan and Mexico, saying if the four countries could settle their differences, "I think we could complete this in a couple of days of sitting."

Canada and Mexico are concerned about giving Japan too much leeway to source auto parts from low-cost suppliers outside Trans-Pacific signatory countries such as Thailand.

As The Globe and Mail has reported, Canada and Mexico only learned when they arrived at the Hawaii round of Trans-Pacific talks in late July that the U.S. and Japan had brokered a deal on vehicle imports that could hit the NAFTA partners' auto sectors hard. Furthermore, Washington had assured Tokyo that its North American neighbours would accept the side deal.

Ottawa and Mexico City discovered in Hawaii that Japan and the U.S. had cut the side deal lowering the threshold for how much of an auto part and car would have to come from Trans-Pacific signatory countries to avoid hefty duties. The remainder of the auto could come from low-cost suppliers outside Trans-Pacific countries, currently a major source of parts for Japanese auto makers.

Under North American free-trade rules today, more than 60 per cent of a light-duty vehicle must be made in Canada, Mexico or the United States for it to enter these markets free of tariffs. The biggest problem for Canada, however, is proposed exemptions within the TPP content formula that Washington hammered out with Tokyo – one that grants Japan the right to use some parts that contain even less content from Trans-Pacific countries, a source close to the talks said.

The assumption among all parties in the TPP auto talks is that the TPP content rules for auto parts will end up being lower than the rules for autos, or light-duty vehicles, themselves.

Both Mexican and Canadian auto-parts makers, however, are anxious to avoid setting content rules for autos and auto parts that are substantially different. After all, they say, three-quarters of a car is auto parts.

As Canada, Mexico and the U.S. try to resolve autos, the chief American trade official, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, and the chief U.S. negotiator, Barbara Weisel, are heading to Malaysia to continue TPP discussions on the sidelines of a meeting of economic ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, taking place in Kuala Lumpur starting this weekend.

The U.S. has reportedly negotiated safeguards in its side deal with Japan on autos that would restore tariffs on Japanese vehicles entering the United States if domestic sales of American autos fall sharply due to Tokyo violating the TPP deal.



GM production boost to
extend life of Oshawa plant

Globe and Mail
Aug 20, 2015

The life of a General Motors Co. plant in Oshawa, Ont., has been extended into 2017 amid hot sales of one of the vehicles it assembles.

The consolidated plant, which was scheduled to close in mid-2016, will continue turning out Chevrolet Equinox compact crossovers after a $12-million investment in that factory and GM's Cami plant in Ingersoll, Ont., which is the home plant for the Equinox and its GMC twin, the Terrain.

It is the fifth time that the consolidated plant has been given an extended lease on life. The closing originally was announced in 2005 and scheduled to occur in 2008.

"This new investment represents a very effective way for us to meet strong demand for the Chevrolet Equinox," GM Canada president Steve Carlisle said in a statement.

What happens beyond 2017 at the consolidated plant and the neighbouring flexible plant will depend in part on what happens in contract negotiations next year between the company and Unifor, the union that represents workers in Oshawa and a GM engine and transmission plant in St. Catharines, Ont., as well as those at Cami.

The extension of the consolidated plant is good news, Unifor president Jerry Dias said, but unless new vehicles are allocated to the flexible plant, the chances of GM and Unifor reaching an agreement are "nil."

Negotiations next year with GM and its Detroit Three rivals, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, will be difficult, Mr. Dias said, but new vehicles for Oshawa are critical. "That is going to be the key piece," he said.

The consolidated plant and Cami are about two hours apart along Highway 401 in Southern Ontario, but are linked by a so-called shuttle operation.

The body shop at the Cami plant produces more Equinox bodies than Cami has the capacity to paint and finish. So the unfinished bodies are sent to Oshawa, where they are painted and finished with interiors and other components.

"We are booming here," said Mike Van Boekel, chair of the Cami unit of Local 88 of Unifor. The plant has been running on three shifts a day, six days a week for the past six years.

About 20 workers are being hired on average every three months, Mr. Van Boekel added.

The Equinox is GM Canada's third-highest-selling vehicle, although sales fell about 10 per cent in the seven months ended July 31 to 11,142 from 12,382 in the first seven months of 2014.

Sales in the U.S. market, which is the destination for about 90 per cent of Equinox models, rose 15 per cent in the first seven months of the year. The compact crossover segment is among the hottest market niches on both sides of the border.

The Oshawa consolidated plant also produces older versions of the Chevrolet Impala mid-sized car. The newer versions of the Impala are produced at the neighbouring Oshawa flexible plant, which also turns out the Buick Regal, Chevrolet Camaro and Cadillac XTS.

Camaro production is scheduled to end in November, while Impala, Regal and XTS are scheduled to end or be moved elsewhere. The shift in Camaro production will eliminate about 1,000 of the 3,700 jobs at the two Oshawa plants.

The lack of new product allocation has raised fears about the future of the Oshawa operations later this decade.

Mr. Carlisle said earlier this year that no decisions on future product allocations for Oshawa would be made until after the auto maker concludes the labour negotiations next year.


The Closing of the Canadian Mind

New York Times
AUG 19, 2015

Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada, is creating a legacy of secrecy and ignorance. Credit Mark Blinch/Reuters

THE prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, has called an election for Oct. 19, but he doesn't want anyone to talk about it.

He has chosen not to participate in the traditional series of debates on national television, confronting his opponents in quieter, less public venues, like the scholarly Munk Debates and CPAC, Canada's equivalent of CSPAN. His own campaign events were subject to gag orders until a public outcry forced him to rescind the forced silence of his supporters.

Mr. Harper's campaign for re-election has so far been utterly consistent with the personality trait that has defined his tenure as prime minister: his peculiar hatred for sharing information.

Americans have traditionally looked to Canada as a liberal haven, with gun control, universal health care and good public education.

But the nine and half years of Mr. Harper's tenure have seen the slow-motion erosion of that reputation for open, responsible government. His stance has been a know-nothing conservatism, applied broadly and effectively. He has consistently limited the capacity of the public to understand what its government is doing, cloaking himself and his Conservative Party in an entitled secrecy, and the country in ignorance.

His relationship to the press is one of outright hostility. At his notoriously brief news conferences, his handlers vet every journalist, picking and choosing who can ask questions. In the usual give-and-take between press and politicians, the hurly-burly of any healthy democracy, he has simply removed the give.

Mr. Harper's war against science has been even more damaging to the capacity of Canadians to know what their government is doing. The prime minister's base of support is Alberta, a western province financially dependent on the oil industry, and he has been dedicated to protecting petrochemical companies from having their feelings hurt by any inconvenient research.

In 2012, he tried to defund government research centers in the High Arctic, and placed Canadian environmental scientists under gag orders. That year, National Research Council members were barred from discussing their work on snowfall with the media. Scientists for the governmental agency Environment Canada, under threat of losing their jobs, have been banned from discussing their research without political approval. Mentions of federal climate change research in the Canadian press have dropped 80 percent. The union that represents federal scientists and other professionals has, for the first time in its history, abandoned neutrality to campaign against Mr. Harper.

His active promotion of ignorance extends into the functions of government itself. Most shockingly, he ended the mandatory long-form census, a decision protested by nearly 500 organizations in Canada, including the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Catholic Council of Bishops. In the age of information, he has stripped Canada of its capacity to gather information about itself. The Harper years have seen a subtle darkening of Canadian life.

The darkness has resulted, organically, in one of the most scandal-plagued administrations in Canadian history. Mr. Harper's tenure coincided with the scandal of Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto who admitted to smoking crack while in office and whose secret life came to light only when Gawker, an American website, broke the story. In a famous video at a Ford family barbecue, Mr. Harper praised the Fords as a "Conservative political dynasty."

Mr. Harper's appointments to the Senate — which in Canada is a mercifully impotent body employed strictly for political payoffs — have proved greedier than the norm. Mr. Harper's chief of staff was forced out for paying off a senator who fudged his expenses. The Mounties have pressed criminal charges.

After the 2011 election, a Conservative staffer, Michael Sona, was convicted of using robocalls to send voters to the wrong polling places in Guelph, Ontario. In the words of the judge, he was guilty of "callous and blatant disregard for the right of people to vote." In advance of this election, instead of such petty ploys, the Canadian Conservatives have passed the Fair Elections Act, a law with a classically Orwellian title, which not only needlessly tightens the requirements for voting but also has restricted the chief executive of Elections Canada from promoting the act of voting. Mr. Harper seems to think that his job is to prevent democracy.

But the worst of the Harper years is that all this secrecy and informational control have been at the service of no larger vision for the country. The policies that he has undertaken have been negligible — more irritating distractions than substantial changes. He is "tough on crime," and so he has built more prisons at great expense at the exact moment when even American conservatives have realized that over-incarceration causes more problems than it solves. Then there is a new law that allows the government to revoke citizenship for dual citizens convicted of terrorism or high treason — effectively creating levels of Canadianness and problems where none existed.

For a man who insists on such intense control, the prime minister has not managed to control much that matters. The argument for all this secrecy was a technocratic impulse — he imagined Canada as a kind of Singapore, only more polite and rule abiding.

The major foreign policy goal of his tenure was the Keystone Pipeline, which Mr. Harper ultimately failed to deliver. The Canadian dollar has returned to the low levels that once earned it the title of the northern peso. Despite being left in a luxurious position of strength after the global recession, he coasted on what he knew: oil. In the run-up to the election, the Bank of Canada has announced that Canada just had two straight quarters of contraction — the technical definition of a recession. He has been a poor manager by any metric.

The early polls show Mr. Harper trailing, but he's beaten bad polls before. He has been prime minister for nearly a decade for a reason: He promised a steady and quiet life, undisturbed by painful facts. The Harper years have not been terrible; they've just been bland and purposeless. Mr. Harper represents the politics of willful ignorance. It has its attractions.

Whether or not he loses, he will leave Canada more ignorant than he found it. The real question for the coming election is a simple but grand one: Do Canadians like their country like that?


UAW sets strike authorization
votes for GM, FCA

Michael Wayland, Melissa Burden and Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
Tues August 18, 2015

Strike authorization votes for United Auto Workers members at General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are set to take place by month's end.

The procedural votes have been taking place for Fiat Chrysler's 37,000 union members since at least the beginning of the month. GM's roughly 50,800 UAW-represented workers are scheduled to vote by Aug. 27. The dates are targets for local union members to vote by. Many local unions have already voted.

"The strike vote is part of the UAW's democratic process that occurs every contract year," GM spokeswoman Katie McBride said in an emailed statement. "We remain committed to working with our UAW partners on an agreement that benefits employees and strengthens GM's long-term competitiveness."

A Ford Motor Co. spokesperson said the company has not been notified of a vote being scheduled.

The strike authorization votes give union leadership the ability to authorize a strike if negotiations stall. It does not mean there will be a strike. The current four-year contracts expire Sept. 14.

This is the first contract since GM and Chrysler emerged from post-bankruptcy government restrictions. Automakers are reporting record profits, and union leaders have made it clear they want to share in the wealth after givebacks during the 2008-09 economic downturn.

GM and Chrysler workers were prohibited from striking when the current contract was negotiated in 2011, but that restriction — required as a condition of their government bailout — has expired.

A UAW spokesperson declined to comment.

Johnny Pruitte, president of UAW Local 276 in Grand Prairie, Texas, which represents about 4,000 hourly workers from GM's Arlington Assembly Plant, said strike votes for local and national agreements with GM are set to run for 24 hours beginning at 6 a.m. Aug. 25.

The local is encouraging members to vote yes to authorize UAW International to call a strike if necessary. GM's Arlington plant is the automaker's lone production source for its highly profitable full-size SUVs.

"We're very strong here in Arlington in support of the international should a strike be called," Pruitte said.

But Pruitte and the local and union stress that the strike vote is procedural and only means the membership supports a strike as a last resort if all attempts to reach a national or local contract fail.

"We never advocate a strike," he said. "The best thing that all labor unions try to do is resolve the differences at the table. That's what for negotiations are for."

Pruitte said he has been preparing membership to save money in case a strike is called. When profit-sharing checks were issued earlier this year, Pruitte said he told members that was an excellent time to save the check so "you'd have a surplus of money to pay bills to weather a strike."

"These are generally formalities," said Kristin Dziczek, director of the Industry & Labor Group for the Center for Automotive Research. "This is the threat they hold over negotiations; withholding their labor."

Dziczek said the votes typically pass with near 100 percent acceptance rates, and that voting no would "be like going into battle saying we'll leave our guns at home."



Trump suggests moving some car production from Michigan

David Shepardson,
Detroit News Washington Bureau
August 17, 2015

Washington — Donald Trump is making the future of U.S. auto production acornerstone of his campaign for the Republican nomination for president.

Trump disclosed in an interview with The Detroit News Wednesday that Ford CEO Mark Fields wrote to him explaining the automaker’s planned $2.5 billion investment in Mexico after Trump criticized Ford in June. And Trump suggested one way to stop automakers’ expansion to Mexico is by moving some production out of Michigan to lower-wage states.

“I don’t like what’s happening,” Trump said in the 15-minute telephoneinterview. “We’re losing our jobs. We’re losing our wealth. We’re losing our country ... Why can’t we do it in this country? It’s an incredible thing that we’re not allowed to make our product.”

Trump said he backs government tax incentives to keep auto production in the United States. He said the U.S. shouldn’t open its market to Japanese imports unless it drops trade barriers.

The United States has lost more than 5 million factory jobs since 2000; Michigan has shed more than one-third of its manufacturing jobs since then. In an appeal to blue-collar workers, Trump vows to keep the more than 12 million manufacturing jobs in the U.S.

“We’ve got to keep (factories) here. It’s not that hard to do,” he said. Without action, he added, “pretty soon all we’re going to have is nursing home jobs.”

Trump has repeatedly said that if elected, he would not allow Ford to open a new plant in Mexico. At his campaign announcement speech in New York in June, Trump said he would call Fields to explain the “bad news.”

“Let me give you the bad news: Every car, every truck and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35 percent tax,” Trump said. “They are going to take away thousands ofjobs.”

It isn’t clear how Trump could legally single out one automaker for punitive taxes. Ford confirmed that Fields sent Trump an email the day after his announcement speech. Spokesman Karl Henkel said: “Mark sent Mr. Trump an email with information about Ford, including the $6.2 billion we have invested in our U.S. plants since 2011 and our hiring of nearly 25,000 U.S. employees. Mr. Trump thanked us for the information and said that Ford is a great company and that he is a Ford customer. We appreciate his kind words.”

Trump said Fields’ email didn’t change his views about the expansion. He called it a “very, very nice letter,” but said it didn’t justify “how it is going to be good for the United States, because that cannot be justified.”

In April, Ford said it would add 3,800 jobs in Mexico as part of a $2.5 billion investment — on top of the 11,300 Ford already employs in Mexico. The investment will include a new $1.1 billion engine plant that’s part of an existing facility and a new $1.2 billion transmission plant allowing for exports of engines to the United States and elsewhere. Ford also is investing $200 million to expand engines production at another plant in Mexico.

Ford has repeatedly said it is not closing any U.S. plants as a result of its Mexican expansion. On Wednesday, the automaker said it was shifting production of heavy trucks — the F-650 and F-750 — from Mexico to a factory in Ohio.

Last month, Ford said it would end small car production at its Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne. It didn’t say where it would locate production, but some analysts have suggested the work will move to Mexico. The automaker has insisted it has no plans to close the Wayne plant and will add new production.

Asked why he was focused on Ford when other global automakers have announced plans to expand operations in Mexico, Trump said he wasn’t familiar with other automakers’ expansion plans. He planned to mention other automakers, he said, and asked The Detroit News to send information about them.

General Motors Co. in December announced a $5 billion investment in Mexico over six years. GM has four complexes in Mexico with 14 manufacturing plants comprising assembly, engine, transmission, stamping and foundry work which employs about 15,000 people.

Trump asserted that new plants in Mexico will cost jobs. Detroit needs a lot of help — and it certainly needs a lot of help when factories are closing to move to Mexico — when you are closing up your car factories in order to build the same factory in Mexico, meaning a modern version of it in Mexico. We just can’t have that. It just can’t happen, and we have to stop it.”

In addition to the Ford and GM expansions, BMW AG, Volkswagen AG and its Audi unit, Nissan Motor Co., Kia Motors, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV are among the automakers that have built or announced new plants or plant expansions.

Many automakers have decided they can’t build small cars profitably in the United States. Auto workers in Mexico make as little as $9 an hour. In addition, Mexico has dozens of free trade agreements around the world, free or nearly free land on which to build, and fewer regulatory hurdles.

Trump dismissed the lower-wages argument. he said U.S. automakers could shift production away from Michigan to communities where autoworkers would make less. “You can go to different parts of the United States and then ultimately you’d do full-circle — you’ll come back to Michigan because those guys are going to want their jobs back even ifit is less,” Trump said. “We can do the rotation in the United States — it doesn’t have to be in Mexico.”

He said that after Michigan “loses a couple of plants — all of sudden you’ll make good deals in your own area.”Although wages are lower at non-union U.S. plants owned by foreign automakers, hourly employees for Detroit’s Big Three are paid the same no matter what state they’re in, under the terms of United Auto Workers contracts.

Trump also criticized Japan. Japan has boosted auto production in the U.S. dramatically but is still exporting more than 1.5 million vehicles from Japan to the U.S. annually. Last year, the U.S. sent Japan just 23,000 vehicles.

U.S. automakers have long called Japan’s auto market one of the most closed in the world. Trump said the barriers to U.S. auto exports are “ridiculous — andthe U.S. says, ‘Oh please, we’re sorry to offend you.’ ”

“Until you open your markets, you’re not selling any more cars over here, ”Trump said. “That’s going to force people to build in the United States.”But Trump has been supportive of the $85 billion auto bailout, telling Fox News in December 2008 he supported a rescue. “I think the government should stand behind them 100 percent. You cannot lose the auto companies. They’re great. They make wonderful products,” he said.

He told The News on Wednesday that GM and Chrysler could have been savedwithout government bailouts. “I think it would have worked out the other way, too,” Trump said. “It would have been a free-market deal.”

Trump lamented that some products aren’t made in the U.S. I just ordered 4,000 television sets — the only place you can buy them is in South Korea,” Trump said. “They all come from South Korea — and Sony, but Sony lost its way.”


Ford to build
in Nigeria

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
August 11, 2015

Ford Motor Co. on Tuesday will announce that it will partner with dealer group Coscharis Motors Limited to build its popular Ranger pickup truck at a new assembly plant in Nigeria.

The plant is in Ikeja, in the Lagos State, about 450 miles southwest of Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja.

The plant will create about 180 jobs directly and indirectly, Ford said, and production will begin in the fourth quarter of this year.

The plant will have the capacity to produce up to 5,000 Rangers a year — all for sale in the Nigerian market.

“Assembling Ford Ranger trucks in Africa’s largest economy is an important milestone in our Middle East and Africa growth plan,” Jim Benintende, president of Ford Middle East & Africa, said in a statement.

“With Coscharis we have the right partner and with the Ford Ranger we have the right product to deliver a world-class truck that Nigerian customers want and value.”

Nigeria will be the first African country outside South Africa where Ford will produce vehicles.

“Nigeria is a priority market for us in sub-Saharan Africa, and today’s announcement will allow us to better serve our customers both from a retail point of view, and in terms of vehicle and parts availability,” Jeff Nemeth, president and CEO of Ford of Sub-Saharan Africa region, said in a statement.

“We are committed to supporting Nigeria’s developing automotive industry and economy together with Coscharis, and are looking forward to being active in the community. New assembly operations, even on a smaller scale like this one, have very positive ripple effects in the local economy and work force.”

The Ranger is sold in 24 countries throughout the African continent. Through the first six months of 2015, it was the best-selling vehicle in South Africa.

Later this year, Ford will start selling an updated Ranger with new styling and features, including the ability to wade through water up to 31.5 inches deep.

Ford says it builds the Ranger for 148 markets including Europe, the Middle East and Africa.


Automakers trying to stop
hackers from taking over cars

Tom Krisher,
Associated Press
August 9, 2015

Detroit — When researchers at two West Coast universities took control of a General Motors car through cellular and Bluetooth connections in 2010, they startled the auto industry by exposing a glaring security gap.

Five years later, two friendly hackers sitting on a living room couch used a laptop computer to commandeer a Jeep from afar over the Internet, demonstrating an even scarier vulnerability.

"Cars don't seem to be any more secure than when the university guys did it," says Charlie Miller, a security expert at Twitter, who along with well-known hacker and security consultant Chris Valasek, engineered the attack on the Jeep Cherokee.

Fiat Chrysler, the maker of Jeeps, is now conducting the first recall to patch a cybersecurity problem, covering 1.4 million Jeeps. Experts and lawmakers are warning the auto industry and regulators to move faster to plug holes created by the dozens of new computers and the growing number of Internet connections in today's automobiles.

The average new car has 40 to 50 computers that run 20 million lines of software code, more than a Boeing 787, a recent KPMG study found.

Miller and Valasek are known as "white hat," or ethical hackers, and reported their findings to the company. But the episode raised the prospect that someone with malicious intent could commandeer a car with a laptop and make it suddenly stop, accelerate or turn, injuring or killing someone.

After the 2010 hack, the auto industry plugged access holes and tried to isolate entertainment and driver information systems from critical functions such as steering and brakes. But in each subsequent model year, it added microchips and essentially turned cars into rolling computers. The introduction of Internet access has created a host of new vulnerabilities.

"The adversary only needs to find one way to compromise the system, where a defender needs to protect against all ways," says Yoshi Kohno, associate professor of computer science at the University of Washington, who was part of the 2010 hack.

Mark Rosekind, who heads the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has urged the industry to set cybersecurity standards and avoid government regulation.

But two Democratic sens., Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, have introduced a bill that would force the industry to seal off critical computers and add technology to stop hackers in real time.

Security experts say automakers should have systems that recognize rogue commands and stop them from taking control of a car. Some already do. They also say car companies must behave more like the personal computer industry, instantaneously updating software via the Internet to stay ahead in a perpetual cat-and-mouse game. Tesla and BMW already can do this, and nearly all automakers are planning for it.

Even so, experts say it's nearly impossible to stop all cyberattacks, as the U.S. government and major retailers have discovered.

"It's the same thing you see in any industry: You do more and someone finds a way around it," says Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina.

In the 2010 incident, the hackers worked near the car. In the recent Jeep attack, Miller and Valasek used a laptop in Pittsburgh to control the vehicle in St. Louis.

They used the Cherokee's cellular connection to access its radio. From there, they penetrated the vehicle's controls, changing its speed and taking over the brakes and the transmission.

Just last week, another hacker revealed that he placed a small electronic box on a car to steal information from GM's OnStar system so he could open doors and start the vehicle. GM said the hack was isolated to one car and it has closed the loopholes.

Miller says Fiat Chrysler did implement some security measures. The hackers at first got to a radio chip that was isolated from critical computers. It took them three months, but they got that chip to talk to another one and give them access to the Jeep's controls. All told, the hack took about a year.

Miller says that because so few people have the expertise and motivation, a large-scale hacking attack on cars is unlikely. "Some teenager is not going to do this or some bored group of undergraduates," he says.

Still, there is reason to question whether the industry is ready for a cyberattack.

Stefan Savage, a computer science and engineering professor at the University of California, San Diego, participated in the 2010 hack. He praised Tesla for hiring a cybersecurity officer with power to make changes. GM created a similar position. But he says other companies he preferred not to name have moved more slowly.

Savage says radios and other devices often have software owned by the outside supplier. As a result, the software can have vulnerabilities an automaker may not know about.

He also says it's difficult to isolate radios, locks and other features from computers that move and stop the car. For instance, after a crash, cars are programmed to unlock their doors.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents a dozen major companies, says the industry is working with security firms and universities to prevent attacks. Earlier this month, companies formed a group to share information. Some companies such as Audi offer rewards to outside experts who find vulnerabilities in their systems.

Savage predicts all automakers will accelerate plans for instant Internet software updates.

"I'd be shocked if everyone doesn't deploy this stuff in the next few months," he says. "They can't afford not to."


UAW talks still in
'honeymoon stage'

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
August 8, 2015

United Auto Workers Vice President Jimmy Settles said Thursday that record profits Ford Motor Co. earned in the second quarter won't change what the union plans to fight for in contract talks.

"We negotiate smart," Settles said.

"We don't negotiate for today, we negotiate for the future. We're not negotiating to try to put anybody out of business."

The UAW and Ford kicked off contract talks in July. The union is hoping to "bridge the gap" between its first- and second-tier workers, whose pay can differ by more than $10 an hour for, in some cases, the same job. Automakers like Ford will be fighting to keep labor costs down.

Settles said talks have gone smoothly and that the two sides are first dealing with smaller issues that are easier to agree upon.

"We deal with the small ones and then we move up," he said. "We're getting the low hanging fruit and we're progressing quite well. I call it the honeymoon stage ... honeymoon only in the sense that it's early."

Settles spoke with media Thursday after a pregame ceremony at the 12U All-Star Classic baseball game in Detroit. The game was at William Clay Ford Field, which Ford and the UAW opened in June.

"These kind of events energize me," Settles said.

"You get tired, but you see these kids playing here ... there's some positive things here in this city."


New Ford screen keeps
spiders out of cars

Michael Martinez,
The Detroit News
August 7, 2015

Arachnophobes, rejoice.

Ford Motor Co. has developed a new screen that stops spiders from crawling inside its vehicles to spin nests and lay eggs. The small, cylindrical screen will be placed in the fuel lines of all its vehicles globally, starting with the 2016 Focus RS.

Spiders aren't just a creepy-crawly annoyance; they can cause serious damage to cars by blocking fuel vapor lines with their thick webs. The main culprits are yellow sac spiders.

"These particular Arachnids are not sedentary — they are hunters and constantly roaming," David Gimby, Ford fuel systems engineer, said. "When it's time to build a birthing cocoon or an over-winter cocoon, they seek a cavity or a depression, like a fuel vapor line opening, which allows them to maximize the use of their silk."

The Dearborn automaker has been working to keep spiders out of cars since 1999, and developed its first spider screen in 2004. The new screen is designed to block the spiders from entering the fuel lines, but also allows for air and vapor flow.

"We are constantly improving and adapting, even when it comes to technologies that are already working," said William Euliss, Ford fuel systems engineer. "There is a significant amount of engineering that goes into every detail of our vehicles, like the spider screen."

Arachnids have caused a number of automakers to recall vehicles. In August 2014, Suzuki recalled more than 19,000 midsize cars after it found spiders could clog a fuel vapor vent hose. In April 2014, Mazda recalled 42,000 Mazda6 cars after it found the yellow sac spiders could weave a web in a vent hose and cause the fuel tank to crack.

"Spiders can be a nuisance for our vehicle owners," Gimby said. "We studied these species to discern how they nest, then designed an effective device for excluding the larger, problematic spiders from nesting in our cars."


A free trade deal Canada's electioneering politicians
won't talk about

The Trans-Pacific Partnership could raise drug prices and
whack the auto parts industry. But it's not an election issue.

Thomas Walkom
Toronto Star
Wed Aug 06 2015

It promises to be one of the biggest trade and investment pacts in history, tying together the economies of North America, Japan, Australia and seven smaller nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

More to the point, it promises to have profound effects on Canada.

It could make new prescription drugs prohibitively expensive — and sabotage provincial efforts to build a national pharmacare program.

It could also knock out much of Ontario's auto parts industry.

Foreign corporations, particularly multinational pharmaceutical giants, could be given more scope to override Canadian laws.

Yet with rare exceptions the Trans-Pacific Partnership is rarely mentioned in Canada. Talks to create this new 12-nation trade and investment treaty are still going on. In spite of Sunday's election call, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government is still actively taking part in these talks.

Technically, he details of what is under discussion are secret. But information has seeped out.

We know, for instance, that that there is great pressure on Canada to scrap its supply management system, which is designed to protect the incomes of chicken and dairy farmers.

Indeed, such debate as there is in this country has focused almost entirely on these two narrow agricultural areas.

But the TPP — if it succeeds — will affect more than cows and chickens.

The U.S. is pushing for an ambitious pact that would cement in place intellectual property rules that favour its biggest corporations.

According to the New York Times, American negotiators are demanding that pharmaceutical giants be accorded greater protection for new generation drugs.

The new rules, if adopted, would make it prohibitively expensive to produce cheaper, generic versions of these drugs.

Australia, which has a national pharmacare program that relies on generics, is fiercely opposed to this measure.

It's not clear what Canada's position is since Ottawa won't say. But given that all provinces — including Ontario — offer publicly funded drug benefit plans, Canadians would be wise to worry.

Among other things, the new rules would make creation of a national pharmacare scheme impossibly expensive.

According to the Times, the drug giants are also pushing hard for the right to bypass domestic courts and instead use industry-friendly dispute settlement panels to challenge patent laws they don't like.

Meanwhile, Japan wants its autos — even those using parts manufactured outside the TPP zone — to qualify for duty-free access to the big U.S. market.

Mexico, which already can export auto parts to the U.S. under the North American Free Trade Agreement, is not happy about the prospect of being undercut by even cheaper competitors and has complained publicly.

Citing an anonymous source, the Globe and Mail reports that Canada, too, is miffed.

Yet so far in this election campaign, little of this has come up.

The Liberals, New Democrats and Conservatives all say they favour the Trans-Pacific pact.

The three parties also say they will protect dairy and egg farmers.

Otherwise, there is radio silence.

In part, this is classic Canadiana. Since 1945, Canada's main economic strategy has been to obtain special status vis-à-vis the U.S.

Canadian businesses (and the politicians who listen to those businesses) fear that this special status will be eroded if Ottawa does not sign on to America's latest trade pact.

In part, however, the silence over the TPP results from politics. Free trade is now regarded as an article of faith in the business world. Neither the Liberals nor the New Democrats want to be seen as offside.

The NDP in particular is keen to prove its orthodoxy in economic matters.

As a result, both NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal chieftain Justin Trudeau are walking a delicate line.

They say they support the TPP. They also say they will withhold final judgment until the text of any deal becomes public.

By then, of course, it will be too late.


U.S. excludes Canada, Mexico
from TPP auto negotiations

The Globe and Mail
Aug. 05, 2015

Canada and Mexico are joining forces to try to break a major logjam over Japanese autos at the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, working to come up with a solution that preserves their respective vehicle assemblers and parts makers should a deal open North America to greater Asian imports.

Ottawa and Mexico City have been drawn deeply into a contentious issue at the Pacific Rim talks that held up a deal in Hawaii last week: How much of an automobile must be manufactured within the 12 participating countries to avoid hefty import tariffs inside this proposed trade zone.

A source familiar with the negotiations said Canadian negotiators showed up at the Maui talks to find that the United States had already cut a deal with Japan on how much vehicle content needs to come from Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries.

The Japanese are keen to draw on their existing Asian parts suppliers outside the new trade zone as much as possible.

"Canada and Mexico both voiced their displeasure with being excluded from [these] discussions," the source said.

Japan originally sought a content rule that allowed as little as 30 per cent of a vehicle to come from TPP nations, publication Inside U.S. Trade has reported, and the U.S. had wanted a higher bar of 55 per cent before compromising at a lower rate.

The biggest problem for Canada, however, was proposed exemptions within the formula that Washington hammered out with Tokyo – one that would have granted Japan the right to use some parts that contained even less content from Trans-Pacific countries," a source close to the talks said.

"The makeup of the rules of origin would have had certain exemptions which would have hurt the Canadian supply chain," the source said, referring to parts makers in Canada that sell into the North American market. For instance, if a part exempted from content rules was also one that was made in Canada, it would mean Japan could import lower-priced parts from outside the TPP region, such as Thailand, at the expense of Canadian suppliers.

Canada is, in fact, at the centre of both major obstacles to a TPP deal that were cited by negotiators last Friday: the future of auto and dairy trade. The Canadian government has so far balked at significantly opening its sheltered dairy market to greater foreign imports; the U.S. is seeking new customers for its milk as it anticipates a deal would mean more New Zealand shipments aimed at American consumers.

For its part, the Japanese government was surprised to learn in Hawaii that Canada and Mexico, the U.S.'s NAFTA partners, had not been consulted on the auto-content deal brokered between Tokyo and Washington.

"Japan was understandably caught off guard that a matter they felt they'd finalized with the Americans had not been vetted or endorsed by all three NAFTA partners," the source said.

After balking at the Japan-U.S. proposal on autos in Hawaii, Canada and Mexico are now working jointly on an alternative.

Canadian negotiators met with their Japanese counterparts after talks ended in Maui without a deal last Friday, the source said.

"Canadian officials have made it clear to the U.S. and Japan that the Trans-Pacific outcome on autos must protect and respect the integrated structure of the [North American] industry, to ensure the interests of Canadian auto makers and parts makers are well served."

Now, the Mexicans and Canadians are preparing their own suggestion for vehicle-content rules.

"Mexico and Canada have to bring a proposal to the Japanese … We have to come forth with counterproposals that will be acceptable to all four of us," the source said, referring to Canada, the U.S., Japan and Mexico.

Japanese negotiators were ultimately upset with Washington over how it handled the auto-content talks at the Trans-Pacific negotiations, the source said. Japan had feared the content rules it sought were "not conditions Canada and Mexico would accept … but the U.S. had played it down."

Canada is fighting at Pacific Rim-area trade talks to maintain its privileged commercial relationship with the United States at the same time as it girds itself for a new agreement that would grant 10 other countries even better access to U.S. markets than the North American free-trade agreement. Ottawa is working to preserve a special trading arrangement that has reaped big dividends for businesses and workers over the decades as the two countries build everything from autos to airplanes together.

Canada is the ninth largest vehicle producer in the world and its auto sector is the largest manufacturing employer in this country. The industry, including parts manufacturers, directly supports more than 550,000 jobs across Canada, the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association says.


Auto part origins stall
free trade deal talks

David Shepardson,
Detroit News
Washington Bureau
August 5, 2015

Washington — Long-running talks aimed at reaching a 12-nation Asia Pacific free trade deal have stalled amid a standoff between Japan and Mexico over autos.

The key issue is how countries will classify vehicles as built in one of the 12 nations — and how much content from other countries can be included in what is known as the "rules of origin." The rules are in place to prevent China or other lower wage countries from being able to produce the majority of content in a vehicle and export it without paying taxes.

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, at least 62.5 percent of a passenger car or light truck's net cost must originate in North America to be considered tariff free under the agreement. Mexico wants to increase the percentage to 65 percent in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while Japan wants it to be about 45 percent — which would allow for a greater number of parts from low-wage countries like China and Thailand to be included.

Mexico's auto industry is booming as automakers and parts firms around the world build new plants and expand production thanks to low wages. About 70 percent of Mexican-built vehicles are exported

At the same time, crucial negotiations are continuing over other auto issues that could reshape global auto production. They include how long U.S. tariffs on light trucks and cars will be in place before they are phased out; the procedures for extending tariffs if Japan fails to open its market to more U.S. exports; and the number of vehicles that Detroit's Big Three will be able to ship under a streamlined approval procedure.

For more than seven years, the U.S., Japan, Mexico, Canada and eight other nations have been negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, that would create a massive free trade zone. The pact would cover one-third of global trade and nearly 40 percent of the world's economy. The deal could reshape auto production around the world.

After a round of talks in Maui ended on Friday without reaching a final deal, the nations vowed to resume talks — potentially around Aug. 20 in Malaysia.

Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, was in Maui for the talks. "We must keep working to get auto trade on the right track in the ongoing TPP negotiations. The danger is that TPP will lock in one-way trade if we don't get the terms right on tariff phaseouts, currency practices, labor standards and rules of origin. Substantial work remains to fully address these issues," Levin said.

President Barack Obama wants the free-trade deal as a cornerstone of his administration's economic legacy, and a way to boost exports of U.S.-made products. His administration also seeks a deal with Japan as crucial, since the world's third largest economy is a critical ally in a region where China is expanding its influence.

The pact eventually would end America's 25 percent tariffs on imported light trucks and 2.5 percent tariffs on cars and auto parts. The tariffs have been in place for more than 50 years. Those tariffs, especially the truck tax, have forced foreign automakers to build truck and SUV plants in the United States and helped keep some would-be competitors out of the truck market dominated by Detroit's Big Three.

American automakers fear that if Japan intervenes to weaken its currency, its automakers eventually will be able to dramatically undercut the U.S., especially when tariffs are phased out. Automakers want the tariffs kept in place for at least 25 years or more.

Japan and the United States have not said how long the U.S. auto tariffs will be in place — except to say that they will remain in force for an extended period — as long as any other tariff that gets phased out, and that's expected to be around 20 years.

Japan imports very few U.S. cars, even though it has no tariffs on U.S. vehicles. U.S. automakers have complained for years of other barriers to U.S. vehicles, while Japanese automakers argue U.S. companies haven't made enough of an effort to sell vehicles in Japan. Japanese automakers note they have spent tens of billions of dollars and employ thousands of Americans building cars and trucks in the United States — something U.S. companies don't do in Japan.


Death of the Canadian dollar:
The five stages of grief

Michael Babad
The Globe and Mail
August 4, 2015

Five stages

The Canadian dollar is under attack on several fronts, from the collapse in oil prices to the different paths being taken by central banks.

The loonie lost about 4 per cent in July, sank to below 76 cents U.S. at one point yesterday and again today, and won't stop there, according to analysts who expect it to tumble further to about 73 or 74 cents.

So far today, the currency has been as low as 75.89 cents and as high as 76.30 cents with a pick-up in oil.

Here, then, are the five stages of grief for such an agonizing death:

Stage 1: Denial

The loonie has enjoyed its ups and suffered its downs, as have other commodity-linked currencies, since the collapse in oil prices began a year ago.

When the oil shock began, no one knew when prices would find their bottom, though some observers believed the currency would at least see a short-lived bounce back to about 85 cents.

"Within the global oil markets, oversupply has persisted as OPEC continues to produce above its target and U.S. shale output has yet to slow," Toronto-Dominion Bank economists Leslie Preston and Brian DePratto said in a recent report, projecting the loonie will slip to 73 cents by the second quarter of next year.

"The sustained lower price environment is required to reduce investment in the sector further, eventually leading to the production declines necessary to work down the supply glut," they added.

"This is also expected to sow the seeds of higher oil prices later in 2016."

Stage 2: Anger

The lower loonie is supposed to be a boon to Canada's beleaguered manufacturing export sector.

The Bank of Canada's counting on that, and economists see some signs of it.

But at last count, in May, Canada's trade deficit was a swollen $3.3-billion.

"A more competitive exchange rate should indeed lift export volumes in the quarters ahead," said economists at CIBC World Markets.

"But we aren't going to see all of those benefits just yet."

Well, we can always take out our anger on the Americans by refusing to vacation on Cape Cod.

Actually, we are.

When you've lost almost 25 per cent of your buying power in the U.S., a summer trip to Charlottetown sure looks better than Chicago.

Stage 3: Bargaining

Ah, if only central banks negotiated their timelines.

The divergence between the Bank of Canada and the Federal Reserve is another big factor behind the rout in the loonie.

The U.S. central bank is heading toward its first rate hike, possibly next month, while Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz and his colleagues have cut their benchmark rate twice this year.

The overnight rate now stands and 0.5 per cent, and some observers, though not all, believe a third cut could be possible depending on the outlook.

"In cutting rates in July, BoC Governor Poloz sounded less confident that the economy could re-balance through an expansion in non-oil exports and noted that the BoC still had a fair bit of room to manoeuvre on policy if downside risks to the economy started to materialize," Paul Meggyesi, managing director of global foreign exchange strategy at JPMorgan Chase & Co., said in a recent report.

"The CAD curve certainly prices the risk of easing but with only 10 basis points discounted for this year there's still some way for rate expectations to adjust should oil not find a floor soon," Mr. Meggyesi added, citing the loonie by its symbol.

"A 25-basis-point rate cut this year would likely boost USD/CAD by another 2 to 3 cents," he said, referring to the U.S. dollar versus the loonie.

"This seems more plausible now that Canadian GDP has contracted for five consecutive months."

Given that Mr. Poloz would like to see a loonie-related export boost, I'm sure he'd love to negotiate with Fed chair Janet Yellen to go for it sooner rather than later.

Stage 4: Depression

Well, recession, actually.

And not a real one, just a technical one.

Canada's economic performance, and what that could mean for monetary policy, is also weighing on the currency.

Gross domestic product contracted at an annual pace of 0.6 per cent in the first quarter, and the Bank of Canada expects further shrinkage of 0.5 per cent in the second quarter.

The central bank expects a pickup in the second half of this year, as do several economists.

"However, the severe drop in the businesses' confidence index for the month of July, published [Thursday] by the [Canadian Federation of Independent Business], raises some doubts about the BoC's scenario of a solid rebound in real GDP for the second half of 2015," warned Sébastien Lavoie, assistant chief economist at Laurentian Bank Securities.

"Also, oil companies have announced another round of capex and jobs cuts [last] week," he added.

"Finally, the residential construction and real estate services are unlikely to provide tailwinds to growth going forward since the higher level of unabsorbed inventories (new supply) should lead to a reduction in homebuilding activity."

Stage 5: Acceptance

Even speculators betting on a rebound are throwing in the towel.

According to the latest report from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the net short position against the loonie had widened by almost $1-billion (U.S.) to $4.3-billion by last Tuesday.

That was deeper than short positions for the Australian dollar, Mexican peso, British pound, New Zealand dollar and Swiss franc, though trailed the euro and the yen.

"The details are weak, showing an apparent capitulation on the part of CAD bulls whose position had built for four consecutive weeks prior to [last] week's decline," Bank of Nova Scotia currency strategist Eric Theoret said of the weekly CFTC report.

"CAD bears have also built their short positions steadily since late May, suggesting a rising expectation for continued currency weakness."

The prognosis

From BMO deputy chief economist Michael Gregory and senior economist Benjamin Reitzes:

"With a view to final trimester Fed tightening this year, unmatched by the BoC, we look for the currency to continue to depreciate, averaging C$1.33 in October [meaning about 75 cents]. Political uncertainty heading into the Oct. 19 federal election and continued global oil price volatility (but along a sideways trend) should reinforce the weakening trend. Presuming the absence of post-election policy uncertainty and more oil prices, we look for the loonie to average a cent or so stronger by 2015-end."


NDP surges past Conservatives, Liberals in latest poll

New Democrats take double-digit lead in public
support, their best showing by far in the past two years,
Forum Research poll finds.

Christopher Reynolds
Staff Reporter
Toronto Star
Mon Aug 03 2015

The New Democrats have surged to a double-digit lead in public support, gaining more distance over the other federal parties than they have at any time in the past two years, according to a new Forum Research poll.

About four in 10 Canadians surveyed (39 per cent) said they would cast their ballot for the NDP if an election were held today.

The Conservatives fell from neck-and-neck status with the NDP last week to 28 per cent of voter support Sunday, while the Liberals were steady at 25 per cent.

Projected onto an enlarged 338-seat House of Commons, the survey results indicate the NDP would command a solid minority of 160 seats — 10 short of a majority.

The poll, conducted hours after Prime Minister Stephen Harper kicked off a marathon campaign Sunday for the Oct. 19 election, reveals the NDP, under Thomas Mulcair's leadership, has turned its flagging fortunes around.

Last December, even though it was the official Opposition, it was a distant third, according to Forum data, trailing with 17-per-cent support. The Liberals, under Justin Trudeau, were dominant at that point, with 41 per cent.

The Liberals have since gone from a comfortable lead to a three-way tie for third place in the course of a year, poll results show.

"I … haven't found a single instance of the NDP having a double-digit lead before today," Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research, told the Star.

"Now the government has released the hounds, as it were, people … are coming off the fence and ending up with the NDP for now," he added in a statement.

The campaign — twice the typical length — will be the longest, and likely the costliest, election in modern Canadian history.

"Much can happen in that time because campaigns, and their errors, forced and unforced, do make a difference," Bozinoff noted.

Sunday's poll found a distinct gender gap in the Conservative vote, which attracts more than a third of male voters (34 per cent) but fewer than a quarter of women (22 per cent). The gap works the other way for the NDP: 35 per cent of male voters and an even higher 42 per cent of women.

After tying with Harper in previous polls as preferred choice for prime minister, Mulcair is now seen as the top choice, compared to Harper and Trudeau, who ranks slightly lower than both.

The NDP has stated its openness to a coalition with the Liberals, who last month expressed resistance to the idea. Forum data shows more than two-thirds of Liberal and NDP supporters (68 per cent) back it.

In Ontario, the NDP and Conservatives are virtually tied, with the Liberals lagging by double digits. The NDP has a solid lead over the Grits in Quebec, while the Bloc Québécois and Conservatives trail.

The NDP also leads in British Columbia, while the Conservatives dominate the traditionally right-wing Alberta, despite the provincial NDP's landslide victory there in May.

In the formerly Liberal fortress of Atlantic Canada, the NDP has nearly half the support (45 per cent), while the Liberals are in a solid second (38 per cent).

The Forum Research poll was conducted between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday using an interactive voice-response telephone survey. Weighted statistically by age, region and other variables, it polled 1,399 randomly selected Canadians age 18 or older.

Results are considered accurate plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


Canadian economy careens toward recession as election looms

The likelihood that Canada has fallen into a recession
deepened Friday with news of below-zero growth
for the fifth consecutive month.

Les Whittington
Toronto Star
August 2, 2015

OTTAWA—With the economy looming large in an election campaign only days away, the likelihood that Canada has fallen into a recession deepened Friday with news of below-zero growth for the fifth consecutive month in May.

It was the latest in a string of bad economic results for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who will be asking Canadians to pass judgment on his record in a national vote on Oct. 19.

A recession is usually defined as six consecutive months of below-zero economic growth, and the NDP and Liberals have seized on the long stretch of recession-like conditions to accuse the government of mismanaging its most important file — the economy.

"The economy is suffering and Stephen Harper's government is more concerned about wasting taxpayers' money with an early election call," NDP finance critic Nathan Cullen said. He was referring to expectations Harper will on Sunday officially launch the Oct. 19 election, setting in motion a longer-than-usual campaign that will likely cost Canada tens of millions of dollars more than the estimated $375 million.

"The Conservatives' poor economic record is proof that their priorities aren't in the right place," Cullen added.

Word from Statistics Canada that economic output fell by 0.2 per cent in May is part of a drastically changing picture caused by the oil-price slump. The Bank of Canada has halved its growth projection and Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) Jean-Denis Fréchette has concluded the federal government is unlikely to achieve its long-promised goal of balancing Ottawa's books in 2015.

Harper has acknowledged Canada is in an economic "downturn" as a result of the slump in the global economy. But he has brushed aside the PBO conclusion about a likely budget deficit in 2015.

"Our budgeting is very conservative and we are well on track to realize a balanced budget this year," Harper told reporters last week.

Harper has staked much of his political strategy this year on his government's ability to bring an end to seven years of consecutive budget deficits. The Conservatives say running a tight fiscal ship is crucial to achieving economic prosperity. Harper's party passed legislation in which a finance minister who records a budget deficit would be called on the carpet at a Commons committee to explain how to fix it.

And several recently announced tax breaks — including an increase in the children's fitness tax credit, a $2-billion measure allowing income-splitting for tax purposes among couples, and the increase to $10,000 in the contribution limit for Tax Free Savings Accounts — had been made contingent on balancing Ottawa's books when Harper first proposed them in the 2011 election campaign.

Implementation had been postponed because of continuing budget deficits but Harper has said the measures could go ahead now because Ottawa had put its books in order.

Despite recent economic setbacks, Finance Minister Joe Oliver maintains the government will not run a deficit, and Conservative MPs on the Commons finance committee blocked an effort by the opposition parties to bring Oliver to Ottawa to answer questions on the economy in light of Fréchette's gloomy prediction.

"It definitely would be interesting to hear the finance minister actually explain how he can claim there will be a balanced budget," New Democrat MP Guy Caron said after the committee's July 27 decision not to invite Oliver.

"We're going into an election this fall. I think Canadians are actually entitled to know exactly where we stand in terms of our economic situation, and right now it's clear that the Conservatives aren't interested in bringing the light to this."

Liberal MP Scott Brison said "the Conservatives have gone from wanting to run on the economy to running from the economy."

Responding to StatsCan's report on Friday, Oliver said in a statement: "The global economy remains fragile and is being dragged down by forces beyond our borders such as a significant decline in oil prices, the European debt crisis, and China's economic slowdown.

"Now, more than ever, we must continue with our low tax plan for jobs and growth, strong financial fundamentals and a balanced budget," he added.











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