Ford Motor Co. and Unifor’s new collective agreement tackles everything from racial inequality, medical cannabis coverage and a new pension plan.

The $1.8 billion deal ratified on Monday includes a racial justice advocate in a nod to the ongoing racial reckoning occurring in society and workplaces. The newly created role will complement existing inclusivity efforts at Ford plants in Canada and will advocate for Black and other marginalized employees while encouraging fellow colleagues “to take a more affirmative stand against racism,” says Corey Vermey, Unifor’s director of pensions and benefits.

Read: Workplace inclusivity starts with acknowledging systemic racism: report

“We have had broader equity programs, but this has a more specific focus . . . [by] addressing both the Black Lives Matter issues that have arisen in terms of systemic racism and experiences of Blacks in Canadian society, as well as of Aboriginal and Indigenous peoples. This certainly does flow from recent events and how we want to address those matters by using collective bargaining as a way to address social issues so that the union has a social agenda as much as possible, as well as an economic agenda.”

On the economic side, the three-year collective agreement provides a five per cent wage increase over the life of the deal, a four per cent lump sum and a productivity and quality bonus of $7,250. The deal also provides employees with inflation protection bonuses and changes to Ford’s new hire program, including an eight-year wage grid and the re-instatement of afternoon and midnight shift premiums. 

Ratified with a vote of 81 per cent in favour, the latest agreement also transfers those employees in Ford Canada’s defined contribution pension plan into the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology pension plan’s DBplus. “That is a very significant move for us to put our newer members back on a defined benefit pension,” says Vermey.

Read: Four more employers join CAAT’s DBplus pension plan

The new agreement also provides employees with access to medical cannabis coverage through insurer Green Shield Canada, he notes. While the benefit will only be available under specific circumstances, Vermey predicts bargaining for the coverage as part of collective agreements will become more common in the future.

“Increasingly, I think parties will see that there’s a responsible approach [and] will realize that there’s mutual benefit, most obviously to the patients under certain medical conditions. The medical evidence is only really beginning to come to the fore, but we think [offering medical cannabis coverage] would make sense as a value proposition. . . . It’s very clearly aimed at very specific situations, not least of which is the opioid crisis.”

Benefits Canada contacted Ford, but no one was available to comment.

Read: A look at medical cannabis coverage’s growing pains

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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