GM could move pro­duc­tion

Union head says po­ten­tial move rep­re­sents a ‘war on Canada’

The Sudbury Star - - BUSINESS - ALICJA SIEKIERSKA FI­NAN­CIAL POST files from the Cana­dian Press asiekier­ska@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/al­ic­jaw­ithaj

Gen­eral Mo­tors Co. is con­sid­er­ing shift­ing pro­duc­tion of the Chevro­let Equinox to other fa­cil­i­ties, a move the head of the union lead­ing the on­go­ing strike at an On­tario plant said rep­re­sents a “war on Canada.”

GM in­formed Uni­for head Jerry Dias on Wed­nes­day that the com­pany has started to ex­plore other pro­duc­tion al­ter­na­tives as the strike at the CAMI fa­cil­ity in Inger­soll, Ont. con­tin­ues into its fourth week, ac­cord­ing to a com­pany of­fi­cial.

The of­fi­cial said ne­go­ti­a­tions have reached an im­passe, although a nar­row win­dow re­mains to reach a col­lec­tive agree­ment be­fore pro­duc­tion is shifted.

De­spite the pos­si­ble pro­duc­tion change, Uni­for — which rep­re­sents about 2,500 strik­ing work­ers — is stand­ing by its pri­mary de­mand that the com­pany make a longterm com­mit­ment to the plant that would pre­vent fur­ther pro­duc­tion from shift­ing to Mex­ico. Dias called GM’s threat “a slap in the face” to Canada and the U.S.

“The bot­tom line is that by do­ing this at this point in the ne­go­ti­a­tions, they are re­ally thumb­ing their nose at both Canada and the United States,” Dias said in a phone in­ter­view Thurs­day.

“They have de­clared war on Canada.”

A key stick­ing point in the dis­cus­sions re­mains a long-term com­mit­ment that would des­ig­nate the plant as the lead pro­ducer of the next-gen­er­a­tion Chevro­let Equinox.

Pro­duc­tion of the new Equinox be­gan at the plant in Jan­uary, but the ve­hi­cle is also pro­duced in two Mex­i­can fa­cil­i­ties. The union says it wants the lead pro­ducer des­ig­na­tion to en­sure the CAMI plant would main­tain core pro­duc­tion lev­els in the event of a down­turn or man­u­fac­tur­ing changes in the auto in­dus­try.

The des­ig­na­tion is par­tic­u­larly sig­nif­i­cant for the union, as about 400 em­ploy­ees were laid off this sum­mer af­ter GM moved pro­duc­tion of the GMC Ter­rain from the CAMI plant to Mex­ico.

The com­pany of­fi­cial said the ne­go­ti­a­tions have noth­ing to do with NAFTA, but about reach­ing a col­lec­tive agree­ment. But Dias dis­agrees, and has re­peat­edly pointed to the loss of the Ter­rain at the CAMI plant as “NAFTA at its ugli­est.”

“The de­ci­sions Gen­eral Mo­tors have made are as a re­sult of NAFTA. They are ex­ploit­ing Mex­i­can em­ploy­ees, pay­ing them $2 an hour to build the Ter­rain that used to be built in our plant,” he said.

“They can talk about sep­a­rat­ing NAFTA from the dis­pute, but the dis­pute is a re­sult of NAFTA.”

The ten­sions in the GM ne­go­ti­a­tions come at as NAFTA rene­go­ti­a­tions ap­pear to be fall­ing apart. Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau met with politi­cians and busi­ness lead­ers in Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day, where he ac­knowl­edged that the agree­ment could be in trou­ble and that the fed­eral govern­ment is brac­ing for the worst. Trudeau de­parted for Mex­ico on Thurs­day.

The union rep­re­sent­ing 2,500 strik­ing work­ers has been on strike since Sept. 17. GM re­cently com­pleted an $800 mil­lion in­vest­ment at the CAMI fa­cil­ity to pro­duce the Equinox.

Hun­dreds of em­ploy­ees out­side the CAMI plant have also been af­fected by the strike. GM said it made “re­lated pro­duc­tion ad­just­ments” at three fa­cil­i­ties be­cause of the labour dis­pute at the CAMI plant, in­clud­ing GM’s propul­sion plant in St. Catharines, Ont., Spring Hill man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in Ten­nessee, and engine op­er­a­tion plant in Flint, Mich.

BURCE CHESSELL/WOOD­STOCK SEN­TINEL-RE­VIEW FILES

Strik­ing work­ers walk the line out­side the CAMI fac­tory in Inger­soll, Ont., on Sept. 28. Gen­eral Mo­tors says it is con­sid­er­ing mov­ing pro­duc­tion of the Chevro­let Equinox from the plant as the strike go on.

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