General Electric Canada reached a new labor agreement with the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union recently, a contract that includes a commitment to develop a North American Centre of Excellence for large, slow-speed motors.

Other terms of the three-year pact include wage increases of 2% in the first year, 2.5% in the second year, and 3% in the final year. Also included are improvements to workers’ pension and benefits packages described as “significant” by labor sources in Canada. They include an extension of supplemental pension payments to extend bridge payments until retiring workers qualify for pension coverage.

The 750 workers covered by the agreement, at four operations in Ontario, approved it with a 97% majority.

Most of the workers are assigned to GE Canada’s plant in Peterborough, Ont., where the CoE would be established.

GE develops numerous types of industrial motors to power equipment like compressors, grinding mills, metal rolling mills, hoists, refiners, propulsion, fans, pumps, and generators, among others. Marine motors are a significant market segment, as are wind and solar energy plants.

Industries that are supplied by GE’s motors include oil-and-gas, mining, power and energy, pulp and paper, metal producing and processing, water and wastewater processing, and various others. Marine engines are another important application.

The Peterborough plant is one of its oldest operations: it was GE’s first manufacturing plant in Canada, reportedly established by Thomas Edison in 1892. Now, GE’s motors are used to power machinery in industries that include oil-and-gas, mining, power and energy, pulp and paper, metal producing and processing, water and wastewater processing, and various others. Marine engines are another important application.

A multi-year, multi-phase restructuring of the Peterborough operation would involve investments in process and capital equipment to improve the plant to global standards.

GE said its initial investment is valued at approximately $21 million. An additional $5 million investment would be made to support GE’s wind and solar businesses.

These investments would position Peterborough to compete for greater market share in multiple industries, according to manufacturer.

"GE is committed to building our Peterborough business and continuing our long history as an employer of choice in the Peterborough area," stated GE Canada president and CEO Elyse Allan.  "We believe this ratified agreement sets the stage for building a competitive operation and a world class Centre of Excellence."