GM sets sights on Canada: unionist
General Motors has “declared war” on Canada by ramping up production of its Equinox vehicle in Mexico, Unifor president Jerry Dias charged Thursday.
The automaker’s move to assemble more of the crossover sport utility vehicles — now made at the Cami plant in Ingersoll, whose 2,800 workers are four weeks into a strike — at two Mexican operations is a slap in the face of the company’s local workers, said Dias.
“This means the strike at Cami will continue. It means GM is declaring war on Canada,” Dias said Thursday.
Workers walked off the job on Sept. 17, largely in a fight over job security language. The union wants a pledge the local assembler will maintain three shifts of work or more production than in Mexico.
“We are sick and tired of losing the auto industry and now GM is saying they are ramping up production in Mexico,” said Dias.
“The reality is Cami workers have been working six days a week for eight years and all we are asking for is if there is a loss of volume, they take it out of Mexico first.”
But Dias should dial down the harsh rhetoric, because GM Canada has invested $800 million in the Cami plant, as well as its Oshawa plant and St. Catharines engine operations, said Tony Faria, an economics professor and automotive analyst at the University of Windsor.
“He is taking this too far. GM has in no way declared war. It has staked out a position with regard to negotiating production at an assembly plant,” said Faria.
GM’s Oshawa assembly plant has received overflow production of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, and added 500 jobs, as a result of the deal reached in 2016 contract talks between Unifor and the automaker.
In recent years, GM has invested $800-million in Cami, in retooling for new machinery and retooling for the new-look Equinox, which includes $250-million for a new body shop
The automaker also has invested $150 million in research and development in St. Catharines, he added.
“That is a far better indication of support for the Canadian industry than what Unifor is asking for,” said Faria.
“I think Unifor has gone overboard with its rhetoric. It is very unfortunate the strike has lasted this long.”
GM had a 53-day supply of Equinoxes when the strike began.
“I think Unifor has pushed GM into a corner and they could have either given up, or fought. GM has decided to fight back. Unifor has taken a hard position.”
GM in July shipped production of its GMC Terrain crossover to Mexico, cutting more than 400 jobs at Cami. Cami assembled more than 260,000 Equinoxes last year. The two Mexican operations have small volume, producing about 40,000 Equinoxes between them.
GM Canada could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Equinox has helped GM post solid sales growth this year. U.S. sales of the SUV totalled 212,735 in the first eight months of 2017, compared to 242,195 in all of 2016, according to the GMauthority.com website.
In September alone, Equinox sales were up 69 per cent, the model’s best September yet.
GM reported a 12 per cent yearover-year increase in sales of all vehicles in September to 279,397 units. Contributing to that was a 43 per cent jump in crossover sales.
Dias is in Washington, part of the Canadian team renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Last year, a record 22.5 million vehicles were sold across North America. But analysts project that hot market will cool in four years, with deliveries forecast to drop by about four million vehicles, Faria said.
Striking workers picket the GM Cami assembly plant in Ingersoll on Thursday. In July GM moved production of its Terrain crossover to Mexico, cutting more than 400 jobs at Cami.