Lana Payne speaks to the delegates after being elected the new president of UNIFOR, Canada's largest private sector union, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on August 10, 2022.
CNN  — 

Members of Canada’s autoworkers union, Unifor, ratified a tentative three-year agreement with Ford on Sunday after the union had reached an 11th-hour agreement last week to avert a possible strike.

The deal, which Unifor called “exceptional,” was unanimously endorsed by leadership from the local unions on Friday, the union said in a news release. But despite that endorsement, only 54% of the rank-and-file members voted to ratify the deal.

The union leadership said the contract was the best deal they could get for members.

“This was an extraordinary round of collective bargaining, taking place in an extraordinary time,” the union’s leadership wrote in a joint message to members included in the bargaining report. “Autoworkers, like all workers, are gripped by an affordability crisis and rising costs. High interest rates are fueling economic uncertainty for families. We are still reeling from a devastating pandemic and damaging supply shortages that have affected our jobs. Amid these challenges comes a once-in-a-century auto sector transformation that, if done right, will grow Canada’s industrial footprint.”

“Our Unifor-represented autoworkers are the heart of Ford of Canada,” Bev Goodman, CEO of Ford of Canada, said in a statement. “This contract invests in our talented and dedicated employees.”

Impact on US auto talks?

The terms of the deal could have an impact on negotiations to end the strike by the United Auto Workers union against Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. At the very least, it raises hope that a deal could be near with Ford.

Unifor won some key demands that Ford and the other automakers have yet to agree to in talks with the UAW, including a return of a pension plan — rather than just 401(k)-style retirement accounts — for Unifor mem