GM Canada prepares to idle transmission plant if CAMI strike continues, union says

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Photo credit: CamiStrike/Twitter

General Motors Canada has warned about 300 workers who manufacturer Chevy Equinox transmissions in St. Catharines, Ont., they will be laid off soon if the automaker and union can’t reach a new contract at the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., by the end of the week, Unifor Local 199 said.

St. Catharines Powertrain supplies CAMI with transmissions for the Equinox, but production in Ingersoll halted when 2,800 Unifor members struck the automaker late Sunday after the labor contract expired. 

Unifor Local 199 Chair Tim McKinnon said GM has been running the St. Catharines line all week, stockpiling transmissions there as the strike continues in Ingersoll, about 90 miles away.

GM Canada didn’t immediately respond to questions about how the St. Catharines operations would be affected by the strike at CAMI.

McKinnon said about 90 percent of the transmissions made in St. Catharines are shipped to CAMI. He estimates the factory is stocked with enough parts to continue running two shifts a day through Friday.

“But come Monday morning, there will be 300 people laid off if there is no deal [in Ingersoll],” he said.

McKinnon said his local supports the strike in Ingersoll.

“On behalf of our GM membership at Unifor Locals 222, 199 and 636, please know you have our complete support as your members are forced onto the picket lines following General Motors’ failure to bargain a new contract,” reads a letter sent to Local 88 by Unifor chapters in St. Catharines. “We are more than aware of General Motors’ tactics when it comes to their disregard for our job security.”

Local 88 says the main sticking point in the dispute is that GM Canada refuses to designate CAMI the lead Equinox plant among the automaker’s North American facilities.

Two plants in Mexico began assembling the Equinox in April. The crossover is built on a line alongside the Terrain at the Ramos Arizpe plant, which also builds the Chevrolet Cruze and Sonic on another line. GM’s San Luis Potosi plant also builds the Equinox, along with the Chevrolet Aveo and Trax and the GMC Terrain.

GM could ramp up production in Mexico during the strike, but by how much is unknown.

Unifor Local 88 President Dan Borthwick said there is also “shop language that needs to be addressed, economic issues that need to be addressed, but we need a lead producer letter.”

Borthwick on Wednesday said Unifor and GM Canada informally spoke over the phone again, but no progress had been made.

“We realize other people will be affected, that’s why we hope we can come to an agreement soon,” Borthwick told Automotive News Canada on Wednesday.

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