Uni­for: GM threat­en­ing move to Mex­ico

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY KRIS­TINE OWRAM Bloomber­ber News

Gen­eral Mo­tors Co. is look­ing at al­ter­na­tive plants for pro­duc­tion of the pop­u­lar Chevro­let Equinox SUV as a strike at a Cana­dian fac­tory drags into its fourth week.

The com­pany is at an im­passe with strik­ing work­ers at the plant in Inger­soll, On­tario, and feels that it has no choice but to start ex­plor­ing other lo­ca­tions, said a com­pany of­fi­cial who asked not to be iden­ti­fied amid the ne­go­ti­a­tions. The Equinox, which was just re­designed this year, is also pro­duced at two plants in Mex­ico.

GM is try­ing to ne­go­ti­ate a col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment while the Uni­for union seems to be more fo­cused on ne­go­ti­at­ing a trade agree­ment, the of­fi­cial said. While most of the eco­nomic is­sues are re­solved, ac­cord­ing to GM, the main stick­ing point is Uni­for’s de­mand that the Inger­soll plant be des­ig­nated the lead pro­ducer for the Equinox, mean­ing any pro­duc­tion cut­backs would af­fect Mex­ico first.

Uni­for Pres­i­dent Jerry Dias has said re­peat­edly that the strike rep­re­sents ev­ery­thing that’s wrong with the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment, which is cur­rently be­ing rene­go­ti­ated. NAFTA was im­ple­mented in 1994, bring­ing Mex­ico into the flow of tar­iff-free auto trade on the con­ti­nent. Canada lost more than 53,000 au­to­mo­tive jobs from 2001 to 2014, ac­cord­ing to the Au­to­mo­tive Pol­icy Re­search Cen­tre at McMaster Univer­sity in Hamilton, On­tario.

Mean­while, Mex­ico has beat out Canada and the U.S. to win at least eight of nine North Amer­i­can ve­hi­cle as­sem­bly plants between 2011 and 2016, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Au­to­mo­tive Re­search. In Jan­uary, GM shifted pro­duc­tion of the GMC Ter­rain to Mex­ico from the Inger­soll plant, cost­ing about 400 jobs.

“Does trade have ev­ery­thing to do with this? Yes, of course it does,” Dias said in a phone in­ter­view. “This is what the whole fight is all about, this is about fix­ing a colos­sal dis­as­ter of a trade deal.”

The 2,500 hourly work­ers at Inger­soll have been on strike since Sept. 17, in the first walk-out at a Cana­dian as­sem­bly plant since 1996. GM re­cently spent C$800 mil­lion to re­tool the plant, which it says is one of its most pro­duc­tive, for the 2019 model of the Equinox.

The GM of­fi­cial said no fi­nal de­ci­sions have been made on Equinox pro­duc­tion and the com­pany still sees a “win­dow for res­o­lu­tion” if it can solve the re­main­ing is­sue.

Dias said the strike ap­pears set to drag on a while longer. “This thing is go­ing to get ugly be­fore it gets bet­ter but GM can’t just de­clare war on ev­ery­body and think they can get out of this un­scathed.”

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