General Motors and Unifor, the union representing about 2,800 striking workers at the CAMI Chevrolet Equinox assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ont., have talked informally over the phone but aren’t yet back the bargaining table, a union official said.
Workers struck the plant at 10:59 p.m. Sept. 17, after the most recent contract expired. Official talks have yet to resume.
“We’ve had a couple conversations over the phone since we left Sunday night. We’re trying to find common ground so we can get back to the table,” Unifor Local 88 President Dan Borthwick said. “We’re open to having dialogue. As long as we’re talking, it’s better than not talking. Hopefully we can get something done in a short period of time.”
It’s the first strike to affect a Canadian GM assembly plant since 1996. A five-week strike by the CAW, the predecessor to Unifor, idled the CAMI plant in 1992 and Borthwick said his members are prepared for a showdown of similar length.
“We might need a couple pairs of shoes, but we’ll walk,” he said.
Borthwick said the current strike is a gamble, but one worth taking.
“We believe there is some risk, I’m not going to hide from that. But I don’t think we have anything else we can do. They moved the Terrain to Mexico and there’s nothing in our contract right now that stops them from moving the Equinox to Mexico,” Borthwick said.
The main sticking point -- although many smaller ones remain -- is the fact GM Canada refuses to designate CAMI the lead Equinox plant among the automaker’s North American facilities.
“We need to secure a lead plant letter,” Borthwick said. “They’ve indicated verbally they have no plans to move anything and have said our plant is secure. We asked them to put that in writing and they couldn’t commit to that. When somebody can’t put something in writing, that ain’t a promise.”
GM Canada declined to respond directly to Borthwick’s comments. Instead, the automaker re-issued a statement from Sunday night.
“While General Motors of Canada and our Unifor partners have made very positive progress on several issues over the past weeks, the Company is disappointed that we were not able to complete a new agreement. We encourage Unifor to resume negotiations and to continue working together to secure a competitive agreement.”
Borthwick said there is also “shop language that needs to be addressed, economic issues that need to be addressed, but we need a lead producer letter.”