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Union makes offer to jumpstart CAMI talks with GM

Auto industry analyst believes labour dispute is 'not going to go beyond 10 to 15 days'

Colin Butler - CBC News

September 21, 2017

2800 GM employees produce the popular Equinox at the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont. (Kate Duninski/CBC)

The union representing CAMI automotive workers in Ingersoll has made a proposal in an attempt to jumpstart talks with General Motors in the four-day-old labour dispute. 

Almost 3,000 workers have been on strike since Sunday night over job security and General Motors' future investment in the Ingersoll manufacturing plant.  

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"The ball is in the company's court right now." - Dan Borthwick

"It wouldn't end it but it would knock off a couple of the bigger things we were struggling with between the two parties," Unifor local 88 chair Mike Van Boekel told CBC News Thursday.

Among the major sticking points is a lead producer letter that Unifor wants signed by GM that would guarantee the Ingersoll plant would be last to be affected by any cuts in production to the automaker's top selling Chevy Equinox. 

Right now about 60 per cent of all Equinox SUVs produced in North America are made in Ingersoll with the other 40 per cent being produced in two GM plants in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico. 

"If they don't sign the letter then we're not going to meet with them anyway," Van Boekel said. 

Union representatives wouldn't divuldge what the offer included, but indicated that it was made Thursday morning and that the company has yet to respond as of Thursday afternoon. 

"The ball is in the company's court right now,"  Dan Borthwick, the president of Unifor local 88, told CBC News Thursday. 

The union says it's committed to the major issues: job security, improved wages, and contract language.

"The mood on the line is very positive. The membership is holding strong," Borthwick said. 

The labour dispute is in its fourth day and already a number of autoparts producers are feeling the ripple effect of the walkout at the hamstrung Ingersoll plant. 

"My best guess would be that it's not going to go beyond 10 to 15 days." - Tony Faria

Among the auto parts producers affected is auto parts giant Magna International, which indicated Wednesday that it has stopped supplying parts to Cami. 

A company spokesperson would not say how many workers have been affected.

An auto-analyst at the University of Windsor predicts some 20,000 jobs will be affected in the auto sector if the strike becomes drawn out.

Director of the Office of Automotive and Vehicle Research at the University of Windsor Tony Faria. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

However Tony Faria, the co-director of the school's Office of Automotive and Vehicle Research, does not believe the labour disputed will not be a protracted affair because the Ingersoll plant produces the lion's share of GM's top selling Chevy Equinox. 

"GM does not want this strike. This is a plant that's going three shifts a day, six days a week, cranking out everything they can possibly crank out, over 300,000 vehicles a year. That's making a lot of money for GM," he said.

"GM does not want this plant shut down for a considerable amount of time," he said. "Things will start moving along as GM starts losing any sales."

"My best guess would be that it's not going to go beyond 10 to 15 days," he said. "The Chevy Equinox is one of the biggest sellers." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Colin Butler
Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca

with files from Gary Ennett
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