Thousands of striking CAMI Automotive workers gathered at the assembly plant in Ingersoll Sunday to hear their first bargaining update from their union's top dog since the strike began two weeks ago.
Unifor president Jerry Dias discussed 'disappointing' talks between the union and the General Motors committee which delivered a letter to the bargaining committee on Saturday.
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"The letter says GM can do whatever it wants … but we need a commitment that our jobs aren't going to go to Mexico," said Dias to more than 2,000 striking workers.
GM relocated production of the GMC Terrain earlier this year to Mexico, decreasing wages from $35 to $2 per hour and resulting in the loss of about 400 jobs in Ingersoll.
Among the list of union demands, one of the biggest issues revolves around job security with workers demanding the company guarantee it won't move production of the Chevy Equinox – the automaker's top selling car.
However, Dias described the conclusion of the letter as an insult to the union, which has been lobbying for assurance for its workers.
"Should business conditions or needs change, the company will consider all factors including potential impacts on CAMI Assembly and its employees … the company maintains complete discretion on how to address business conditions and needs and where those will be built," read the letter from GM to the union's bargaining committee.
"The strike is really the poster child with what's wrong with the North American Free Trade Agreement," said Dias about the policy currently being renegotiated by Canada, U.S. and Mexico. "This is a critical fight for our organization and a critical fight for good jobs in Canada … NAFTA is playing out in Ingersoll and we need to fix it."
Dias said he's been in talks with representatives of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regarding maintaining jobs in Canada. About 100 striking CAMI workers joined national representatives in a march in Ottawa last week during NAFTA talks.
The wait continues
News that the strike may continue brings a mix of hope and fear among workers.
"I've watched the union stress and I've watched them fight… I'm proud and moved and strengthened by what they had to say today," said striking worker Colleen Wake.
For her colleague Todd Sleeper, the family man is ready to go back to work.
"Enough is enough. Some of us are hurting financially and so is the community…Bills have to be paid and we're ready to go back to work," said Sleeper, who gets paid $250 a week during the strike. "We want to get a good deal though (so) it's all worth it in the long run."
CAMI Automotive employees have maintained a 24-hour shop, six-days-a-week, for the last nine years – pumping out about $2 billion a year for GM Canada.
Both parties have held bargaining meetings in Woodstock before they moved last week to Detroit, where General Motors is headquartered. The union said it met with the heads of GM's North American Manufacturing and Finance.
Both parties will be back at the bargaining table in Woodstock this week.