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GM restarts Ingersoll plant as scheduled despite ongoing U.S. strike

by Ace Damon
General Motors assembly factory in Ingersoll, Ont.

The Canadian Press

Published Monday, October 7, 2019 1:29 PM

Last updated Monday, October 7, 2019 15:16

TORONTO – General Motors has restarted production at its assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, even as a US workers strike enters the fourth week.

The company closed the factory last week, according to a schedule set long before the strike began by about 49,000 members of United Auto Workers.

Unifor President Jerry Dias expected the Ingersoll plant to be forced to close now due to a shortage of parts as the US strike has closed more than 30 facilities.

"GM was very prepared," Dias said. He now believes the company can operate the plant by the end of October.

By keeping Ingersoll operational, with about 2,400 employees per hour, GM can also maintain about one-third of its staff at its St. Catharines, Ontario plant, while supplying engines for the Ingersoll-produced Chevrolet Equinox.

The US strike, however, forced the closure of GM's Oshawa assembly plant by some 2,000 temporary layoffs and another 730 temporary job cuts at the St. Catharines factory. Plant shutdowns also led to more than 1,000 Unifor temporary layoffs at factory-dependent parts suppliers.

Workers are feeling the pinch but support the strike in the US, Dias said.

"There is no doubt that some of our members, especially in the play space, are in pain, but they are also in total solidarity with the UAW because we are living it, we are living GM's decisions so that people are incredibly understanding." .

Negotiations in the US have stumbled over product commitments to US factories, among other issues, something Canadian workers are also deeply concerned about, Dias said.

"Ultimately, GM will have to leave its comfort zone because people are downright sick and tired of seeing our factories shut down and our jobs moving to Mexico."

GM is the leader in Mexico-made vehicles at just over 83,000 last year, according to LMC and the Center for Automotive Research, a think tank based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

UAW Vice President Terry Dittes said in a letter to members on Sunday that the union sent a proposal to the company and that GM responded with an offer that had been rejected with few changes and no job security commitments.

"These negotiations have gotten worse," wrote Dittes.

In a statement, GM said it continues to negotiate in good faith "with very good proposals that benefit employees today and create a stronger future for all of us."

While the union made strong statements over the weekend, that does not necessarily mean that the two sides are far apart, said Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association.

"Experience tells me that sometimes when two parties are close together, they make loud noises that don't seem to be."

Volpe said it is difficult to estimate the total number of jobs affected in Canada, as many parts suppliers are private and do not post job cuts for competitive reasons.

Guelph's parts maker Linamar Corp. said last week that the strike was costing about $ 1 million a day. Magna International Inc. and Martinrea International Inc. did not respond to requests for comment. Industry analysts say GM itself is losing more than $ 80 million a day while the strike continues.

Canadian GM dealers are also beginning to report some delays in parts deliveries.

GM spokeswoman Jennifer Wright said Canadian hubs are still operational and handling most orders, but US parts shipments have been affected. She said the company and dealers are "working to minimize impact on customers."

Strike workers say they want a larger share of the more than $ 30 billion in profits GM has made in the past five years. But the company wants to reduce its labor costs to be closer to those of US factories run by foreign automakers, particularly in the southern US.

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With files from the Associated Press.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on October 7, 2019.

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