GM sets sights on Canada: union­ist

The Beacon Herald - - LOCAL NEWS - NOR­MAN DE BONO

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.

DEREK RUTTAN/POST­MEDIA NEWS

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.

Dias

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