Canadian Manufacturing

Korean auto plants in Canada would keep 80K working: union head

Unifor president said plants would also protect Canadian market from automakers dumping vehicles



TORONTO—Forcing Korean automakers to build assembly plants in Canada in the wake of a new trade pact with South Korea would keep 80,000 Canadians employed, according to the head of the country’s largest private sector union.

Unifor president Jerry Dias said car makers like Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. should bring assembly operations to Canadian shores to mitigate the feared impacts the trade deal could have on the auto industry here.

“There is no question (that) when the dust settles they will be dumping the better part of 300,000 vehicles in our market,” Dias said about Hyundai and Kia in an interview.

“If they want to sell that many then they should have to invest here.”

That volume of vehicles is enough to run a three-shift assembly plant, Dias continued, and would mean plenty of direct and indirect jobs in the country.

“When you talk about 300,000 cars, you are talking (about) a workplace with about 8,000 people, with the spinoff jobs being over 70,000,” he said.

“You’re talking 80,000 jobs. This isn’t nickel-and-dime stuff—this is huge.”

That doesn’t mean Dias is a fan of Canada’s recent free trade deals, though, and he continues to be a vocal opponent to this and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) signed with the European Union last year.

“When you combine the South Korean deal with the CETA deal, the auto industry is really going to take a beating,” he said.

Dias is joined by fellow union heads and automakers like Ford Motor Co. in opposing the Canada-South Korea deal, and even pointed to the Blue Oval’s about-face south of the border as proof of the damage the deal could do.

“Ford agreed with it in the United States (and then) they saw what it’s done in the last two years,” Dias said about the trade agreement inked between the U.S. and South Korea in 2012.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, so Ford opposed it because they know it’s not working in the United States.”

According to numbers provided by Unifor, automotive exports from the U.S. to South Korea over the first two years of their trade deal was US$206-million, while imports were US$$4.6-billion.

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