The auto sector in Canada continues to advance diversification efforts, including by providing new job opportunities for indigenous workers, workers of colour, women, LGBT persons and people living with disabilities. Recent federal $10 per day childcare agreements with provinces, as well as efforts to focus on gender equity in hiring practices at the restarted GM assembly plant in Oshawa, signal that important steps are taking place, and serve as a foundation upon which to build.55
Despite these and other creative efforts championed by Unifor through collective bargaining, to make good auto sector jobs more accessible and inclusive, including the creation of a Racial Justice Advocate program56 across unionized auto plants in 2020, the auto sector continues to lag on diverse workforce representation. Women, for instance represent approximately one-quarter of workers in Canada’s auto industry (23 per cent in assembly plants; 25 per cent in parts facilities), which falls below the share of women in Canada’s manufacturing sector overall (28 per cent).57
Indigenous workers, who comprise roughly 4 per cent of the Canadian workforce, are under represented in auto jobs as well (2.5 per cent in auto assembly; 1.9 per cent in parts).58
In the auto parts industry, black women and other women of colour represent 11 per cent of the workforce, which is slightly higher than their representation in the overall Canadian workforce (10 per cent). However, in higher wage auto assembly jobs, these workers represent only an estimated 4 per cent of the workforce.59 Further, women’s participation in the skilled trades remains very low, representing approximately 6.5 per cent of key auto-related trades occupations.
Compounding these diversity challenges is a persistent gender pay gap in Canada’s auto sector ($1.48 per hour in assembly; $3.82 per hour in parts). Likely due to above-average rates of unionization, this auto industry gap is narrower than the manufacturing sector as whole ($4.43 per hour).60
Encouraging greater diversity in Canada’s auto sector across all under-represented groups must be an objective of employers, governments and unions alike. Expanding hiring practices and establishing strong workplace-based supports that are inclusive of women, Black workers and Indigenous workers, workers of colour, people who have immigrated to Canada and workers with disabilities, creates needed economic opportunities.
55 See Automotive News (January 21, 2022), How GM Oshawa scored a victory for gender equality: https://canada.autonews.com/automakers/how-gm-oshawa-scored-victory-gender-equality
56 Unifor, Racial Justice Advocate, https://www.unifor.org/resources/human-rights/racial-justice-advocate
57 Future of Canadian Automotive Labourforce (FOCAL), Women’s Participation in Canada’s Automotive
Industry (April, 2020): https://www.futureautolabourforce.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Trend-report-Diversity-Women-in-Auto-May27-2020-final.pdf
58 Ibid, pp. 16.
60 Ibid, pp. 22.
#27. Support employers and community organizations committed to hire, train and retain workers in underrepresented communities
Creating opportunities for historically marginalized and under-represented groups to secure jobs in the auto sector requires collaboration among various industry stakeholders. Governments can assist by allocating funds to offset costs to employers that commit to hire, train and retain workers from marginalized groups, contingent on employment equity action plans and systems reviews in place. Such a program can operate in conjunction with the proposed national skills assessment and inventory and can build on efforts undertaken by the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association through its Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Fund.61
61 See: https://apma.ca/edi-fund/