GM Workers Strike in Canada as Mexico Jobs Raise Tension

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Canada's Unifor Local 88 at a General Motors plant in Ontario began striking at 10:59 p.m. Sunday, according to the union's website.

Speaking from the picket line on Monday, Unifor Local 88 plant chair Mike Van Boekel said workers are looking for a guarantee that production of the Equinox crossover vehicle will not be shifted to another plant. The CAMI assembly plant, which has made 132,288 units through August, accounts for most production. GM moved production of the Terrain to Mexico in July of this year which meant the loss of over 600 Canadian jobs; about 400 layoffs and 200 early retirements.

"They're telling us that the GM plant in St. Catharines that supplies their motors and engines, they will be going down Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning and that 1,700 workers are out of a job".

Unifor wants GM to designate the facility as the lead producer for the Equinox, which is now manufactured in Canada and Mexico, according to Bloomberg.

- The strike's ripple effects are already being felt: GM Canada's plant in St. Catharines will shut down this week and Ingersoll supplier Autrans Corp. - which, located near the Cami plant, does some engine assembly - is already shut down. We encourage Unifor to resume negotiations and to continue working together to secure a competitive agreement.

Dias said GM's refusal to commit long term to the plant is a decision that stems directly from the North American Free Trade Agreement. For the year to date, Equinox sales are up 17% compared with the first eight months of 2016.




"This is one of GM's most profitable plants", Dias said.

Indeed, Automotive News cites just 53 days' supply for the Equinox as of September 1.

The union is seeking higher wages, benefit improvements and an investment in the Ingersoll plant similar to the $421 million investment GM promised to make in three other Canadian plants earlier this year.

Dias said it is crucial for the union to secure investments now, as the USA auto market is just beginning to decline and while Canadian sales continue to rise.

GM says it is disappointed the two sides couldn't reach a deal, but is encouraging Unifor to return to the bargaining table.

But Krebs noted that while concerns about moving production to Mexico have been an issue, Cami is likely to face competition for new products from plants in MI and OH that make passenger cars but could be retooled to make SUVs, such as the Equinox.

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