CAMI strike will 'affect everyone' in Ingersoll, workers say

Workers affected by the strike at CAMI Automotive say any prolonged job action at the GM plant will affect everyone in the Ingersoll area.

2,800 workers hit the picket lines, calling for a commitment from GM about the plant's future

Lori Perkins, left and Bonnie Murphy work for Autrans, a company that supplies engines for the Cami plant in Ingersoll. They say the local economy relies heavily on the GM plant, which employs 2,800 people (Kate Dubinski/CBC)

Workers affected by the strike at CAMI Automotive say any prolonged job action at the GM plant will affect everyone in the Ingersoll area. 

Production workers at CAMI went on strike Sunday night in a dispute over job security and future investment in the General Motors plant, which produces the popular Chevrolet Equinox, a vehicle that is also manufactured in Mexico.

Negotiations between the auto maker and Unifor, which represents about 2,800 workers at CAMI, broke off just before the 10:59 p.m. Sunday strike deadline.

General Motors issued a statement after the workers walked out, saying the company had made positive progress on several issues over the past weeks.

A few hundred CAMI workers formed picket lines at the plant's entrances. They were joined by workers at other companies who say they will be affected by any prolonged strike or changes in production at CAMI.

Lori Perkins works for a Autrans, which supplies engines for CAMI and is located right across the road.

Workers at GM's CAMI manufacturing plant walked off the job late Sunday night after talks broke down. (Kate Dubinski/ CBC News)

She came out to picket alongside the CAMI workers. Employees at her company are also Unifor members and their contract expires in October.

"[The strike] affects everyone," she told CBC. "From our fast food people to our grocery store to what we can afford. It affects everybody."

Sarah Croft is a parts manager at a transportation company that supplies CAMI.

2,800 production workers at Cami Automotive have gone on strike to secure new investment in the plant. The facility is owned by General Motors. (Dave Chidley/Associated Press)

"I think at this point the strike is justified," she said. "I think that if you can't guarantee that the Equinox will stay, workers do need to be concerned about it.

"CAMI has been the life of Ingersoll for such a long time. It's helped with its growth, so I do believe (the strike) will have a large impact on this area.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias said a key priority for the union is a commitment from the company designating the CAMI plant as the lead producer of the Equinox.

That would make the plant eligible to receive hundreds of million dollars in new investment when a vehicle is redesigned.

Dias said the strike is "in pursuit of this goal".

The Equinox is the only model the plant now produces.

"Every member understands the importance of reaching a deal that secures production, and what that means to our families and the community, said Mike Van Boekel, Local 88 Chair at the CAMI plant.

Unifor members at CAMI voted 99.8 per cent on Aug. 27 to give their bargaining committee a strike mandate.

The plan, which began as a joint venture between General Motors and Suzuki in the late 1980s, is now wholly owned by GM.

Ingersoll Mayor Ted Comiskey said a lenghy job action would have a "terrible" effect on the community of 12,000 located about 40 kilometres east of London.

"Any time there's a dispute or strike, it's certainly damaging not only to the community, but the families that are involved," he said. "We hope they resume talks as soon as possible for the sake of everyone.