Beyond the picket line: Ingersoll faces economic blow from CAMI strike

Ingersoll’s wider community is feeling the wrath of the 2,800 striking CAMI Automotive workers with one restaurateur possibly facing closure.

Several restaurants struggle for survival with some reporting losing up to $1000 daily

Emma Spence, employee at Pita Pita, said her store has lost hundreds of dollars since CAMI Automotive workers went on strike over a week ago in Ingersoll. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Ingersoll's wider community is feeling the wrath of thousands of striking CAMI Automotive workers, with one restaurant possibly facing a closure.

Nearly 3,000 workers took to the picket line more than a week ago, striking over job security and investment in the plant along the 401.

In the town, a plaza formerly populated by CAMI workers on their shift break is already seeing economic losses.

Aman Kumar moved to Ingersoll three years ago to work as a front line employee at Subway. The sandwich shop has lost nearly $1000 every day since the strike began.

"This plaza will stay empty if the strike continues," said Kumar. "Some stores may even close down by next year."

Aman Kumar, employee at Subway, is afraid he may lose his job is the plaza a few blocks away from striking CAMI workers shuts down. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Kumar said CAMI Automotive, which makes up about a quarter of jobs in Ingersoll, is the town's main economic engine. Without it, he said, the city would become a "ghost town."

"I (could) lose my job. This is my only source of income. I'm really worried. I feel sad and bad."

Next door, Pita Pita has also seen hundreds of dollars of losses.

"It's so quiet. Lately we haven't been making as much as we normally do," said employee Noah Fishleigh. "We rely on CAMI for every business here."

Several suppliers have also been hit hard, including Magna International which has suspended its supply of parts to CAMI.

Several striking CAMI Automotive workers working the picket line in Ingersoll. They began striking last week over job security and future investment into the assembly plant. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Community support

Ingersoll's main grocery store, Tremblett's Your Independent Grocer, has supplied free water and snacks to striking employees at the plant.

Jocie Gordon, one of store's managers, said it's important to support the workers because they have provided the town with a sense of community.

"CAMI over the years has built our community into a bigger community. We stayed very close knit," she said.

Downtown coffee shops also donated lemonade and other cold drinks to the workers, who have recently armed themselves with umbrellas and canopies to beat the record-breaking heat.

Workers at the CAMI are fighting to make the Ingersoll plant the leading producer of the Chevrolet Equinox in North America. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Pressures to respond 

Todd Sleeper, one of the picket line captains, said the community support has boosted worker morale.

"The morale is really high. We have great support from the community," he said. "It's like a big family. This strike has one a lot for our solidarity and everyone is very united."

Up to 100 CAMI workers have also gone on several motorcycle blitzes, driving by the picket line waving Canadian and union flags to keep momentum going.

Despite the positive environment, striking workers are still waiting to hear from General Motors Canada after the union tabled an offer over the weekend.

Unifor Local 88 offered a comprehensive package that focuses on job security and investment in the plant. On the list of priorities, the union wants the Ingersoll plant to be the last affected by any cuts in production.

Sleeper is hopeful that the community impact, from suppliers to local stores, will influence the automaker giant.

"We can't afford to be out, as well. So I think it's time that GM came back to the table and starting negotiating in good faith"

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About the Author

Hala Ghonaim


Hala Ghonaim is a London, Ont.-based radio and digital reporter. You can reach her at