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GM Threatens To Wind Down Striking Canadian Plant

GM Threatens To Wind Down Striking Canadian Plant

General Motors has issued a dramatic warning to the Unifor union in Canada: end your strike or we may just close the plant. The feud is taking place as GM’s CAMI assembly plant located in Ingersoll, Ontario, which has been striking since Sept. 17th.

The Unifor Local 88 called for a strike after contract negotiations between it and GM could not reach a deal by the time the existing contract expired. Talks have exhibited little productivity since, with negotiations advancing from Ingersoll to Detroit between Unifor leaders and GM brass. Still, the impasse remains.

The impasse between the two parties appears to be related to job security. Union officials are demanding GM designate CAMI as the “lead producer” of the popular Chevrolet Equinox crossover in the contract, giving CAMI employees some level of job security knowing the crossover is one of GM’s hottest-selling models.

Thus far GM has been unwilling to put such a commitment in writing and is apparently running out of patience with Unifor.

GM already has the ability to produce the Equinox at two of its Mexico assembly plants, which is exactly what the company is threatening to do if Unifor doesn’t end the strike soon, according to a report in Automotive News.

Right now GM’s ability to produce the Equinox in Mexico is fairly limited to one plant, but studies have begun to examine what it will take to ramp up production completely in Mexico and shut down the striking CAMI plant.

“GM just told us today that they are going to ramp up production in Mexico,” Unifor President Jerry Dias said by phone to Automotive News from Washington. “They have declared war on Canada.”

Thus far GM is not responding to Dias’ comment.

In addition to the possibility of moving Equinox production to Mexico, GM also has assembly plants in the U.S. that are underutilized that could produce the popular crossover. The problem for GM right now is that it would be expensive to retool any of these plants for Equinox.

The Unifor officials are likely fighting an up-hill battle at this point. The CAMI plant is the only GM plant in Canada covered by the Unifor agreement, meaning there is a scale factor in their negotiating tactics. Additionally, uncertainty surrounding the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is also top-of-mind to GM officials.

 





 

About Nick Saporito

AutoVerdict Senior Editor Nick Saporito began writing about cars at age 13. Nick ran a couple of automotive enthusiast sites for several years, before taking some time off to focus on his career and education. By day he's a marketing executive in the telecom world and by night he hangs out here at AV. You'll find him focusing on tech, design and the industry's future.
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  1. Andrew_L
    Dequindre
    Unifor is playing with fire here. GM just invested $560 million into retooling and increasing the size of this plant for the production of the 2018 Equinox. That seems to indicate GM is at least willing to retain the plant for the current Equinox's lifestyle, so why is Unifor striking? It seems like union leadership is putting everyone's job at stake.


    They could always in turn sell the plant too if push comes to shove.
    Dequindre
    Unifor is playing with fire here. GM just invested $560 million into retooling and increasing the size of this plant for the production of the 2018 Equinox. That seems to indicate GM is at least willing to retain the plant for the current Equinox's lifestyle, so why is Unifor striking? It seems like union leadership is putting everyone's job at stake.
    Tone
    Living about an hour down the road, I'm not sensing a lot of interest or sympathy in the wider public for this strike. Unionized manufacturing employees tend to have better salaries and benefits than most of their contemporaries and those jobs seem to require an increasing amount of government incentives and subsidies. So, we're all paying to keep those jobs. And, on one hand, these employees who are relatively well-paid continue to complain. On the other, the companies receiving the support have zero stake in Canada or the communities in which they operate. For the rest of us, I think there's a growing frustration with both sides -- and our collective support of them both.

    It doesn't help that Honda and Toyota -- both non-union shops -- seem to clip along, getting product and employing people, without complain (albeit with access to the tax subsidies and incentives).

    I grew up with a steelworker Dad who saw the writing on the wall on the future of these kinds of limited-skill jobs in a globalized world -- in the 1980s. He made it to retirement,

    but steered me clear of these industries (thankfully). Every time I see strikes like these, I can't help but think: what planet are you all living on?
    Andrew_L
    Good for GM. In today's world it's easy for GM to just move shop to Mexico.
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