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'We heard them loud and clear': standing room only at Unifor Local 444 membership meeting

Unifor Local 444 officials are preparing for contract negotiations with Stellantis while a deadline with General Motors looms and a large portion of local union membership raise concern over the pattern set by Ford.

“When it's time for us come up to bat, my membership yesterday was very clear with us as to what they want to see,” said Unifor Local 444 president, Dave Cassidy.

“They feel that the pattern fell short.”

Cassidy said more than 600 people turned out for a membership meeting at the union hall on Sunday morning with standing room only, after 54 per cent of Unifor Ford members voted in favour of a new three-year collective agreement a week earlier.

Cassidy said there’s great pressure to deliver a contract that appeases everyone, noting pensions remain the number one priority for members in Windsor. “We've been in pressure cookers before. I mean, this isn't our first rodeo. And the reality is we have a very experienced bargaining committee. We know what the issues are. And like I said, pattern has been set. So when it comes to the whole monetary package, they were clear, very clear yesterday. They are not going to accept it.”

“We heard them loud and clear.”

One of the issues several members brought forward was concern over the online voting system.

“This online voting, it's like mail in ballots as far as I'm concerned”, said 25-year assembly worker Roberta Goyeau. “I don't think it's trustworthy. I don't think it's secure and I don't think is safe and it certainly isn’t anonymous and it's unnecessary. We've always voted in person with our ID card and it's always worked out fine.”

“The Union saying that we’re doing online because of COVID and they liked it. We don't like it. And there's no COVID (restrictions) anymore. So there's no reason for online voting.”

Goyeau told CTV News she doesn’t want the union to follow the pattern already set, noting there’s worry with other workers over pension plans, hiring incentives for temporary part time workers and the communication between members and union officials.

“I don't want to follow that pattern. That pattern, it's insulting,” Goyeau said.

Cassidy explained the national union will be presenting the contract via Zoom but that local members will likely have the opportunity to see that presentation in person in a rented room at the casino or elsewhere.

“The reality is we have the information, we will release the information as soon as we get the information. We are not going to negotiate in the public. That's our style. You elected us to make sure we brought it back for you and they understood that yesterday. So I mean, we have we have a lot of work to do.”

Cassidy said he expected talks with Stellantis to take place during the back half of October. “We're here to lead our membership and our membership have given us a mandate and we're going to follow that mandate.”

“Ultimately, I work for the membership and they dictate how it's going to be and the minute that you lose sight of that, the minute you should get out of doing the business that you do.”

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