GM sets sights on Canada, unionist says
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.