General Motors is cutting up to 600 jobs at its CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., Canadian union Unifor said Friday.
The cuts “are permanent in nature,” Unifor Local 88 President Dan Borthwick said.
The automaker currently assembles the Chevrolet Equinox at the plant. General Motors announced on Jan. 9 it would move production of its redesigned GMC Terrain to Mexico from Ingersoll.
“Definitely, if the Terrain wouldn’t have left to Mexico those jobs would most likely be here,” Borthwick said.
Unifor President Jerry Dias blasted GM for the layoffs, saying the decision "reeks of corporate greed."
"It is not based on sales, it is an another example of how good jobs are being shifted out of Canada for cheaper labor in Mexico and Unifor will not let it happen without a fight,” Dias said in a statement. “The Equinox and Terrain are incredibly successful vehicles and given current market demand, there is no justification for layoffs at the CAMI facility.”
Borthwick also said the current model of the Equinox was to continue production through the summer of 2018, but that company officials told the union Friday they now intend to end production of the current model a year earlier.
“That’s a significant impact not only on the 600 workers in our plant, but the parts suppliers, transportation and other services needed to produce the vehicle,” Borthwick said.
The automaker was hiring new employees during early January, according to Borthwick.
“This is a total shock. They certainly had a change of mind,” he said.
GM would not confirm the number of potential cuts or specific reasons for them.
“General Motors Canada provided Unifor advanced notification of labor impacts related to product changeovers and transition at its CAMI facility,” GM spokeswoman Jennifer Wright said in an email. “We continue to work with our Unifor partners to manage through the adjustment with all measures available to us within the collective agreement.”
Said Unifor's Borthwick: "One of our issues was future investment."
Unifor’s collective agreement between CAMI workers and General Motors is set to expire in September.
GM confirmed production of the current Equinox will end in July, at the same time Terrain production shifts to Mexico.
“It was always known we’d have to phase out this older model [Equinox] and it only makes sense for CAMI, operationally, to focus on this vehicle. After July, they’ll focus on just one product line,” Wright said in a followup phone interview. “This is just a natural course of business.”
GM will still operate three shifts a day building the new Equinox, but the units per hour will decrease, which is why the automaker needs fewer workers, Wright said.
Whether those jobs will return depends partly on the success of the Equinox.
“We’re expecting a lot of growth in this hot SUV segment. We expect this vehicle to be very popular,” Wright said of the next model Equinox.
U.S. sales of the existing Equinox fell 13 percent to 242,195 units in 2016.
Wright said the decision had nothing to do with U.S. President Donald Trump threatening to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement or his threat of a border tax on cars built outside the United States.
“These are not new changes or decisions at all,” Wright said. “Two years ago we announced this C$800 million investment ($560 million at the time) for CAMI to produce the next generation Equinox.”
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