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Strike begins at GM manufacturing plant in Canada

  • William Van-Lear Black
  • September 19, 2017
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At 11:00 p.m. Sunday night, workers at General Motors’ CAMI  Assembly Plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada left their posts and began picketing in front of the facility, Canadian news agency Global News reports.

The strike began after GM and Unifor Local 88, a Canadian labor union that represents 3,000 workers, including those at the CAMI facility, failed to reach an agreement by the 10:59 p.m. deadline Sunday.

In August, 99.8 percent of the plant’s workers voted in favor of going on strike in such a scenario. The walkout is the first at a Canadian GM facility in more than 20 years, according to Global News.

Both GM and Unifor Local 88 expressed willingness to continue pursuing a workable arrangement.

“While General Motors of Canada and our Unifor partners have made very positive progress on several issues over the past weeks, the company is disappointed that we were not able to complete a new agreement. We encourage Unifor to resume negotiations and to continue working together to secure a competitive agreement,” the auto giant said in a statement.

Unifor Local 88 chair Mike Van Boekel told Global News the union, likewise, remains open to hearing proposals from GM. He said workers would resume working mid-week if the two parties could reach a “tentative agreement.” However, if GM fails to finalize such an agreement the following Sunday, Van Boekel says, the strike will continue.

The union is negotiating for higher wages, improved benefits, and a commitment by GM to keep production of the Chevy Equinox at the CAMI plant. The facility formerly produced Terrain as well as Equinox vehicles, but in January, GM moved production of the Terrain to Mexico.

“We build [built] the Terrain and the Equinox. The Terrain left, they moved it to Mexico. We were number one in every area for quality, the sales are huge, our profits for the company are huge, and they moved the truck to Mexico anyway,” said Van Boekel, per Global News.

The union wants reassurance that the automaker will not similarly outsource Equinox production.

“If we don’t have a product we can yell all we want, but if the plants are empty, there’s nothing to gain. So we are looking for product, we are looking for commitment, we are looking for investment. Before money, before language, we have to guarantee our jobs are there and that we can support our families,” said Van Boekel.

The product the CAMI plant currently has—the Chevy Equinox—is increasingly vital to GM’s success. As sales of new vehicles decline in the U.S. and around the world, SUVs and crossovers—the Equinox belongs to the latter category—remain in high demand.

Sales of the Equinox are soaring accordingly. Following the release of an updated 2018 Equinox model earlier this year, sales of the vehicle rose 67 percent year-over-year in August.

GM employs more than 2,700 people at the CAMI plant, which opened in 1989 as part of a joint venture between the American automaker and Suzuki Motor Corporation. The two companies split ownership of the facility until 2011 when GM acquired full ownership.

Over the years, the plant has produced seven different General Motors vehicles. The Equinox, which the plant has produced since 2009, and the Terrain, which the plant produced from 2009 until early 2017, are the best-selling vehicles ever to be manufactured there.

Ingersol’s CAMI plant is one of three GM manufacturing facilities in Canada. Oshawa Assembly, located roughly 200 km (125 miles) northeast of Ingersoll, has been operational since 1953. It currently employs over 2,600 people. Like the Ingersoll facility, the one in Oshawa exclusively produces the Equinox.

Van Boekel told Global News the union wants CAMI “to be at least the lead producer of the Equinox.”

A third GM manufacturing facility employs 1,500 people. The propulsion plant in Saint Catherines builds engines and other components.

In addition to the manufacturing operations, GM has an auxiliary headquarters in Oshawa (the company’s primary headquarters are in Detroit) and numerous technology centers throughout Canada. The company’s Canadian operations as a whole employ about 9,000. 225,000 people work for the company worldwide.

As of 2:15 p.m. EST, GM’s stock has dipped 0.66 percent in Monday trading.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons

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I'm Will Black. Pleased to meet you. In case you haven't noticed, there’s a lot happening on this 8,000-mile-wide sphere we’re all stuck on together. There’s plenty going on in each 22.5 inch wide sphere that rests upon a human being’s shoulders, too. I’ve heard every broken record that plays in my own personal 22.5’’ sphere. Writing, for me, is an opportunity to smooth over the ticks and pops on those records, and an effort to understand and lend expression to the myriad phenomena going on in everybody else’s little sphere. If I do that work properly, our ride through space on this big blue sphere should be a little more worthwhile, or at least a little more tolerable.

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