Unifor ratifies contract at GM's Equinox plant in Canada; 86% of workers approve
Production restarts tonight as 4-week strike ends
Union workers at a General Motors plant in Ingersoll, Ont., have ratified a new contract, ending a four-week strike that threatened to pinch sales of the Chevrolet Equinox.
A total of 86 percent of members who cast ballots favored the four-year deal, sending employees back to work at 7 p.m. ET Monday for early startup, according to the Unifor union. Full production is set to resume at 11 p.m., Unifor said.
Unifor also said 79 percent of skilled trades workers voted in favor of the pact.
About 2,800 workers walked off the job at the CAMI Assembly Plant on Sept. 17.
Job security was the union’s biggest demand during contract talks. Unifor had demanded the plant be named -- in writing -- the lead producer of the Equinox. That means if GM needs more of the compact crossover, CAMI would be first to get the additional work, but if sales slowed, production would be scaled back first at a pair of plants that also produce the Equinox in Mexico.
Unifor Local 88 President Dan Borthwick told Automotive News Canada the new deal does not include such a letter pledging jobs will be maintained at the assembly plant. The contract also lacks promises of new product or new jobs, Borthwick said.
Instead, there is what the union considers stronger language surrounding job security. The union said that the contract, if ratified, would make it more costly for GM Canada to close the plant -- about C$290 million ($232 million USD) vs. C$190 million in the previous contract.
“It’s more of a penalty for the employer to close the plant now. It’s going to cost them $100 million more,” Unifor Local 88 President Dan Borthwick said.
Employees that are near early retirement but are forced to leave the plant should GM close it can still grow into a retirement program even if CAMI is shuttered, Borthwick explained. Unifor’s master bargaining committee recommended its members accept the deal.
“The end result was not the result we were hoping for, it shows the true colors of GM,” Unifor Local 88 Chair Mike Van Boekel said in a statement to his members.
Pay hike, lump sums
The union also said workers would get a 4 percent wage hike and C$8,000 ($6,391 USD) in lump-sum payments over the four-year life of the proposal. All current employees also get a $6,000 performance bonus once the deal is ratified.
Production workers will see their wages rise from C$34.74 per hour ($27.75 USD) to C$36.12 by September 2020.
The contract also ensures new hires on the production line reach full wage of C$34.15 per hour at an accelerated pace, the union said.
"The ratification of a new 4-year agreement between GM Canada and Unifor Local 88 at CAMI Assembly is welcome news for our company, employees and the community," Steve Carlisle, president of GM Canada, said in a statement. "We have an outstanding new product at CAMI with the Chevrolet Equinox and I am confident that we will quickly pull together to continue to demonstrate to the world the outstanding productivity, innovation and quality that is synonymous with the CAMI workforce..."
"The employees at CAMI have created a culture of team involvement and continuous improvement resulting in numerous industry awards for vehicle quality and productivity. I am confident that by working as one team, that will continue for years to come."
The automaker threatened last week to shift more production to Mexico if a new contract wasn't reached soon.
The Mexican plants had combined to build 40,017 Equinox crossovers between April, when overflow Equinox production began there, and Aug. 31. Meanwhile, CAMI had produced 132,288 Equinoxes this year through August, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
GM had already sent GMC Terrain crossover production to a Mexican plant from CAMI earlier this year. The move resulted in the loss of about 600 jobs at CAMI, including about 200 workers that took buyouts or early retirement packages.
No more sacrifice
“Given these actions, our demand to protect the Equinox was not only fair and reasonable, it simply made sense. Our members had every reason to make this [lead producer] demand, and did everything to demonstrate it was a demand that deserved to be met,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias said in a statement to his members. “However, at the highest levels of General Motors corporate in Detroit, they coldly refused. As a result and after much internal discussion, we decided that we could not, in good conscience, ask for more economic sacrifice from you in this fight.”
During the strike, U.S. inventory of the Equinox dropped to 43,453 vehicles, or a 41-day supply, at the beginning of October, according to the Automotive News Data Center. Inventory stood at an all-time high of 74,400 units, or a 66-day supply, in June. Supply levels in Canada aren't available.
U.S. sales of the Equinox surged 80 percent last month to 27,512 and deliveries total 212,735 through September, up 22 percent.
Meanwhile, Canadian Equinox sales rose 27 percent to 2,079 in September. Through the first nine months of 2017, Canadian sales are up 38.5 percent over last year.
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