General Motors workers on strike at Ontario plant

Tuesday, 19 Sep, 2017

The Unifor Local 88 union that represents employees at General Motors' CAMI Assembly Plant in Ingersoll, Ontario have authorized a strike.

The almost 3,000 workers at CAMI assemble the Equinox crossover vehicle. The move led to 400 layoffs in Ontario, and 200 workers accepted early retirement packages.

Workers at the plant went on strike at 10:59 p.m.

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 union had blamed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Mexico's cheaper labor costs for the job losses, which it called unjustified given strong sales of the Equinox crossover and Terrain assembled at the southern Ontario plant.

Jerry Dias, the national president of Unifor, says both the TPP and NAFTA are bad for Canadian workers. It also previously made the Terrain, but production of that is now taking place in Mexico.

Gerry Dias Unifor national president said about Unifor's negotiations with GM, "When you have a plant in Mexico that pays their workers $2 an hour and they can't even afford to buy the cars that they build, then you've got a real problem".

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Dias has emerged as the face for labor during renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement, pushing for higher working standards in both the US and Mexico.

Equinox sales in the USA are up 17 percent through August to more than 185,000.

General Motors has urged Unifor to resume negotiations, releasing a statement overnight stating: "While General Motors of Canada and our Unifor partners have made very positive progress on several issues over the past weeks, the Company is disappointed that we were not able to complete a new agreement".

Dias and other labor leaders in Canada, the USA and Mexico have been deeply involved in NAFTA renegotiations, which are set to resume in Ottawa on Saturday.

Inventories of the newly redesigned Equinox 5-passenger CUV closed August with a 61-days' supply, compared with 57 year-ago, according to WardsAuto data.

GM spokesperson Jennifer Wright offered reassurance, however, that the company is not anticipating slowdowns at any of its other Canadian plants. The company said that in 2015 it invested 800 million Canadian dollars ($656 million U.S.) in the plant to build the new Equinox.