GM threat to hike Equinox pro­duc­tion in Mex­ico de­cried

Times Colonist - - Business -

TORONTO — Gen­eral Mo­tors said Thurs­day it was backed into a cor­ner when it told Uni­for it might shift more pro­duc­tion of one of its best­selling ve­hi­cles to Mex­ico, a move the union’s pres­i­dent said is tan­ta­mount to an at­tack on Canada.

The com­pany’s warn­ing to the union comes as a strike at its south­west­ern On­tario op­er­a­tion stretches into a fourth week. Both sides refuse to budge on the de­mand of job se­cu­rity at the CAMI plant in Inger­soll, Ont., which as­sem­bles GM’s Chevro­let Equinox sport util­ity ve­hi­cle.

A GM spokesman — who did not want to be named be­cause the com­pany does not like to com­ment dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions — said in an in­ter­view that the com­pany has no choice but to ex­plore pro­duc­tion al­ter­na­tives.

GM said as much to Uni­for pres­i­dent Jerry Dias on Wed­nes­day.

The com­pany’s po­si­tion is that it can’t agree to the union’s de­mand to guar­an­tee in­vest­ments and job se­cu­rity be­cause they’re part of long-term trade is­sues.

“We’ve been very clear from day one that those are long-term trade and mar­ket things that we just aren’t go­ing to be able to sign up for,” said the spokesman.

Dias said in a phone in­ter­view Thurs­day from Wash­ing­ton, D.C., where NAFTA trade talks are be­ing held, that GM’s com­ments were noth­ing less than a dec­la­ra­tion of war on Canada.

“This is GM say­ing to us — and say­ing to Canada — we’re go­ing to ramp up pro­duc­tion in Mex­ico, and we’re go­ing to flood the North Amer­i­can mar­ket from cars built in Mex­ico.”

Dias said GM is tak­ing ad­van­tage of the low pay scales for Mex­i­can work­ers at the ex­pense of higher-paid work­ers in the United States and Canada, as per­mit­ted by the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment.

He said Uni­for won’t back down about des­ig­nat­ing CAMI as the lead plant for the Equinox, and sug­gested the union could broaden its ef­forts to de­fend Uni­for jobs through­out On­tario’s auto sec­tor.

The CAMI plant is a prime ex­am­ple of a trend that has been hap­pen­ing for years, with GM adding plants in Mex­ico while clos­ing Cana­dian and U.S. plants, Dias said.

“This is the ugly side of NAFTA, that peo­ple don’t want to talk about,” Dias said. “Mex­i­can work­ers are be­ing ex­ploited and, as a re­sult of that, we’re los­ing hun­dreds and hun­dreds of thou­sands of man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs in Canada and the United States. It has to stop.”

Tony Faria, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Wind­sor’s Odette School of Busi­ness, said Uni­for is right that Canada’s au­to­mo­tive sec­tor has lost out be­cause of the trade deal, get­ting none of the past 10 as­sem­bly plants built in North Amer­ica, while nine are go­ing to Mex­ico.

But he said Dias could be mak­ing the sit­u­a­tion worse by be­ing so firm on de­mands for long-term com­mit­ments from the au­tomaker.

“If Jerry is con­cerned about los­ing au­to­mo­tive jobs to Mex­ico, I think he’s just adding to that sit­u­a­tion by mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for Gen­eral Mo­tors to work with Uni­for in Canada.”

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