4 - Creating high quality union jobs

Learn more about our recommendations for creating high quality union jobs, or click here to download the full report.

4.1 Actively encourage union jobs and collective bargaining

Growing global competition for product mandates creates a more vicious environment that puts downward pressure on labour rights. Changing course requires all levels of government to advocate actively for unionization and establish laws that improve workers’ access to unions and free collective bargaining.


  • The Strategic Innovation Fund has proven itself as a powerful tool to leverage public funds to drive investment and strategically develop key industries, including auto. Those receiving public funds from any level of government must commit to advancing Canada’s broader social objectives, ensuring that the constitutional rights of workers are advanced. Employers in this case, must commit to uphold fundamental union rights within their operations in Canada and commit to taking a neutral stance on unionization among employees, meaning that they will enable workers to certify a union without interference or intimidation.

  • In order to support workers’ right to unionization, the certification process must be fair for workers and free from employer intimidation. Automatically certifying a union once a majority of workers sign a union card eliminates the requirement to hold a second vote, often marred by employer counter-campaigns. It also creates a less confrontational, fairer path for workers, including autoworkers, to exercise their right to unionize and undertake collective bargaining.

  • Canada is a trading nation. However, preferential trade arrangements, including free trade agreements, investment pacts and others, for the past 30 years have grown neither Canada’s auto industry nor improved autoworkers’ wages and working conditions. Instead, free trade-led globalization has emboldened multinational automakers to extend supply chains over longer distances and secure greater profits by shifting production to low-cost jurisdictions. For the most part, trade agreements provide workers with little to no recourse to combat these exploitative practices. However, changes to the NAFTA implemented in 2020 marked a significant shift in how labour protections can intersect with free trade. Under the new North American trade pact, CUSMA, employers face severe penalties if they deny workers’ right to free collective bargaining and union organizing, up to and including a ban on exports. Mexican workers at the GM truck plant in Silao successfully organized an independent union in February 2022,54 breaking from a decades-old protection agreement that trampled autoworkers’ rights. The independent union was organized after the United States government invoked the special labour protections and threatened sanctions under CUSMA. All trade arrangements entered into by Canada must include terms that obligate both governments and employers to adhere to international labour standards, including the right to free and fair collective bargaining, terms backed by fully enforceable conditions that are accessible to workers.

    54 See Reuters (February 3, 2022), “'Fed up' GM workers in Mexico pick new union in historic vote”: https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/gm-workers-mexico-elect-independent-union-historic-labor-vote-2022-02-03/

  • Standardized work conditions, such as wages and benefits across a targeted sector, provide a measure of stability and security for workers, particularly within a heavily pressurized and cost-competitive auto parts industry. Unlike in the auto assembly sector, comprised of a handful of original equipment manufacturers whose wages and benefits are generally aligned, and follow the terms of the “master” settlement negotiated by Unifor, the parts industry represents a range of large top tier firms and smaller second tier firms. As a result, hourly rates of pay are scattered, ranging from minimum wage to more than $30 per hour depending on the supplier, as are benefits, premium rates, and other employment terms. Following the lead of other automaking countries, including those in Europe, governments in Canada must explore the merits of a sector-wide collective bargaining framework intended to support workers, create cost certainty for suppliers and eliminate the incentive to cut labour costs as a means to attract investment.