Unifor unveils ‘ambitious’ vision for auto sector

New President Lana Payne, elected by members on Wednesday, advanced a holistic approach of developing a complete supply chainfrom the extraction and refining of the minerals needed to manufacture batteries to the assembly and distribution of new electric models.

Lana Payne was elected national president of the Unifor union on Wednesday. She replaces Jerry Dias, who had led the organization since 2013.

Photo: (Twitter/Unifor)

A fully-fledged ministry

To achieve this, Unifor proposes to Ottawa to adopt a national strategy for the auto sector and to assign this responsibility to a new ministry.

This independent department would have the mandate to attract investment, support the various components of the value chain and coordinate its efforts with the provinces affected, such as Ontario and Quebec.

Currently, various federal departments – including those of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Natural Resources and Employment and Social Development – ​​manage this complex sector.

It’s a inefficient use of government resourcessays the union.

Doug Ford takes his place with other dignitaries inside a pickup truck.

Federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne (right) is often the one who announces investments in the automotive sector.

Photo: CBC/Meagan Fitzpatrick

Driving the adoption of electric vehicles

Unifor recommends that the federal government double the subsidy given to buyers of zero-emission vehicles to $10,000 and encourages the provinces to improve this rebate.

Making this shift to electrification requires tackling the affordability gap, recognizing price barriersunderlines the union, in its new policy on the automobile.

Less than 4% of new vehicles registered in Canada are electric. Almost all of them drive in British Columbia and Quebec, the two provinces that offer the most advantageous incentives and impose sales quotas on manufacturers. These policies promote the purchase of zero-emission vehicles, Unifor argues.

To alleviate the fear of breakdowns, which still discourages many Canadians from adopting these vehicles, the union suggests setting a target for the charging network, namely installing at least one station for every 10 electric vehicles on our roads. .

An infographic that reads: 4 million charging stations needed to power 39 million zero-emission vehicles on the road.

Enlarge image (New window)

Unifor wants at least one charging station to be built for every 10 electric vehicles on the road in a particular region.

Photo: Unifor

The different levels of government also have a role to play in stimulating the auto industry, according to Unifor, by buying electric vehicles made in Canada. According to the Canadian Collective Procurement Initiative, the federal government, provinces, municipalities and public agencies spend approximately $200 billion each year to enhance their vehicle fleets.

The Trudeau government has pledged that all new vehicles purchased for its fleet by 2030 (New window) either hybrid or electric models.

Unifor also wants to standardize recycling programs for end-of-life vehicles and batteries. He cites as an example an initiative of the Government of British Columbia (New window)which gives builders the responsibility to track materials and properly manage hazardous components.

Building an industry fair focused on reconciliation

Unifor also proposes to better frame the dialogue between mining companies and indigenous peoples, and to demand equitable sharing agreements between these stakeholders. These agreements could include revenue sharing commitments, local hiring requirements and contracts with Aboriginal businesses.

The union’s auto policy says it draws on a report released in January by the British Columbia First Nations Energy and Mining Councilwhich also includes a range of recommendations.

By attracting new apprentices, Unifor wants automakers and parts manufacturers to work hard to hire more workers from marginalized or underrepresented groups, such as Indigenous peoples, visible minorities, LGBTQ+ people and women.

A worker participates in the assembly of an automobile.

The assembly lines of the two Ontario factories of the Stellantis group, in Windsor and Brampton, will be retooled to produce electric models.

Photo: Associated Press/Carlos Osorio

The union says governments can help by providing cost-offset funding to employers who commit to diversifying their workforce, not only in terms of recruitment, but also training and retention.

We still have to tackle the wage gap between men and women, says Unifor. According to a study published in 2020, in the parts manufacturing sector, a man earned an average of $3.82 per hour more than a woman, while this gap amounted to $1.48 per hour. in assembly plants.

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