Au­toworker labour chief not wor­ried by Trump

U.S. pres­i­dent ‘has got big­ger fish to fry’

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - ALEKSANDRA SA­GAN

Canada’s auto in­dus­try shouldn’t be con­cerned with the pro­tec­tion­ist rhetoric com­ing from the White House, says the head of the union rep­re­sent­ing au­towork­ers at the so-called Detroit Big Three.

“We are at the cusp of build­ing the in­dus­try again,” Uni­for pres­i­dent Jerry Dias said in an in­ter­view. “We can do this, as long as the gov­ern­ments don’t screw it up.”

Some of that growth comes from the union’s re­cent col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing, which fi­na­gled about $1.5 bil­lion to­tal of in­vest­ment into Cana­dian op­er­a­tions from Ford, Gen­eral Mo­tors and Fiat Chrysler.

All three au­tomak­ers said Thurs­day they have not wa­vered from those com­mit­ments, de­spite the pro­tec­tion­ist rhetoric by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

“You have no idea how proud I am when I lis­tened to the Cana­dian heads of Ford, Gen­eral Mo­tors and Chrysler say­ing that they are living up to their com­mit­ment re­gard­less of what Trump is say­ing,” Dias said Fri­day in a speech be­fore the Au­to­mo­tive News Canada Congress.

“It’s a sym­bol that the in­dus­try is turn­ing the cor­ner. It’s here to stay.”

Dias said a shift in pol­icy by Ottawa has also helped the in­dus­try, in­clud­ing the Lib­eral’s re­cent de­ci­sion to change the au­to­mo­tive in­no­va­tion fund from re­payable loans to grants.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment an­nounced Thurs­day $17 mil­lion in fund­ing for Lakeshore, Ont.-based Astrex, an auto parts man­u­fac­turer, to cre­ate a f acil­ity for build­ing parts that re­duce fuel con­sump­tion and lower car­bon emis­sions, and $1.2 mil­lion for Ottawa-based GBat­ter­ies En­ergy Canada to de­velop long-last­ing bat­ter­ies for elec­tric cars.

Dias said he isn’t wor­ried Trump’s pro­tec­tion­ist talk will jeop­ar­dize con­tin­ued in­vest­ment.

“He’s got big­ger fish to fry than good old Canada,” Dias said in an in­ter­view, not­ing that Mex­ico has a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of in­vest­ment com­pared with how many cars are pur­chased in the coun­try.

Dias said he and Trump agree on one thing, and one thing only: Un­fair trade agree­ments have hurt work­ers.

“When he says that NAFTA’s been a dis­as­ter, he’s right.”

Any tweaks to the agree­ment are likely to make things more ben­e­fi­cial for Canada, he said.


Jerry Dias ex­pects con­tin­ued in­vest­ment in the Cana­dian auto in­dus­try.

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