DETROIT - You could say that UAW workers at General Motors' Oklahoma City plant lost their shot to build the Chevrolet Camaro by two minutes. And GM won by 120 more vehicles a month.
As a result, the nearly 6,000 Canadian Auto Workers at the Oshawa, Ontario, plant walk away with their livelihoods.
GM will get 30 minutes more production a week at its three-shift Oshawa plant in exchange for the chance to build the Camaro, GM and union sources say. That translates to an additional 120 vehicles a month. GM product czar Bob Lutz has said GM expects to sell 100,000 Camaros annually.
CAW hourly employees gave up two minutes of paid break time per eight-hour shift, among other concessions, to win the chance to build the new muscle car. Last week, GM said it would begin building the Camaro in Oshawa in late 2008.
Making the case
On the morning of Feb. 9, CAW President Buzz Hargrove and Local 222 President Chris Buckley boarded an airplane for Detroit to meet with GM executives. It was to be a routine update meeting.
This time Hargrove and Buckley had their own agenda, though.
The men knew full well that GM had targeted Oshawa's Line No. 2 as one of 12 facilities it would close by 2008.
"During the meeting, I raised the issue that we're looking for product for plant No. 2 in Oshawa, and the Camaro would be a perfect fit," Buckley says. "I told them we've proven we can produce a product better than anyone in the industry."
The J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study ranked Oshawa Line 2 as having the highest quality in North America for 2005. Another influential industry study, the Harbour Report, ranks Oshawa Line 2 as the second-best plant in North America for productivity.
But Buckley knew quality alone wouldn't be enough to get a new product. "It was no time to roll the dice with thousands of our members' futures," he says.
Buckley saw an opportunity to offer GM a compelling business case, in the form of giving up some jobs and some benefits to ultimately save nearly 6,000 jobs.
Buckley had GM's attention.