Why thousands of Ontario plant workers may take to the picket line this fall

Thousands of CAMI Automotive workers in Ingersoll, Ont., are preparing to strike if union negotiation agreements aren’t reached with General Motors Canada in the fall.

99.8 per cent of CAMI Automotive workers voted to strike if negotiations aren't settled with GM Canada

(Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

Thousands of CAMI Assembly plant workers in Ingersoll, Ont., are preparing to strike if union negotiation agreements aren't reached with General Motors Canada in the fall.

About 1,200 of approximately 3,000 unionized plant workers green-lighted a decision to strike when they voted 99.8 per cent in favour of it at a strike mandate meeting on Sunday in London. 

"The membership has given us the support and the ammunition to take to the company to show that we have a strong mandate — almost 100 per cent — in achieving the demands that we put forth to the company,"  said Dan Borthwick, the president of Unifor Local 88.

Contract talks between the two sides began on Aug. 10 and will intensify after the Labour Day weekend.

Union demands 

The union is asking for improved wages and benefits, as well as a new investment at the facility. The union has also asked for changes to its collective agreement, including scheduling vacation time and improving grievance procedures.

Borthwick said employees need to be rewarded for maintaining a 24-hour shop, six-days-a-week, for the last eight years that has pumped out about $2 billion a year for GM Canada.

"I believe after this mandate today the company has no choice but to hear our demands and respect the demands that the membership has put forward," he said. "It would benefit the workers, their families, and the community to have a successful tentative agreement and ratification."

Unifor Local 88 represents nearly 3,000 workers – 400 of which are currently facing layoffs.

GM slashed more than 600 jobs at the auto assembly plant, east of London, earlier this year when it announced it would move production of its Terrain vehicle line to Mexico. It also announced it would boost production of the Chevrolet Equinox at the CAMI plant.

Last year, Borthwick said the union didn't anticipate any jobs would be lost with the move.

If a deal isn't reached, a strike or lockout would be possible any time after Sept. 17.