By on September 17, 2016

The enduring popularity of the Chevrolet Equinox has led General Motors to some creative manufacturing approaches to keep up with demand. In addition to the crossoverÕs assembly home in Ingersoll, Ontario, GM runs a shuttle system that takes Equinox bodies to Oshawa, Ont., for painting and final production, Image: General Motors Canada

With GM Canada and Detroit Three autoworkers union Unifor making little headway in contract negotiations, the possibility of government subsidies has raised its head.

At week’s end, the two sides were reportedly far apart as the clock ticks down to possible strike action at midnight on September 19. With General Motors as its strike target, Unifor lists new investment and product at the endangered Oshawa assembly plant as its number one demand.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the Canadian workers’ union boss is encouraged by talk of indirect federal government intervention.

Citing an earlier report in the Globe and Mail, the publication reports that changes could be on the way for Canada’s Automotive Innovation Fund, created in 2008 to offer low-interest loans to automakers and suppliers.

Unifor president Jerry Dias told the Free Press yesterday that the government has signaled to him its intention of switching the fund from a loan program to one that offers grants.

“Do I believe that that will play a role and provide an assistance to us in our negotiations? The answer is yes,” Dias said.

The possibility of direct government subsidies would certainly sweeten the pot for GM, though the government hasn’t officially declared its intentions, and time is running short to prevent a walkout at three Ontario facilities.

Earlier this week, GM’s CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario pledged to support Unifor workers in the event of a strike. CAMI builds Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers, and is covered by a different collective agreement. If GM workers walk off the job after their contract expires, CAMI’s Unifor Local 88 has pledged to not install replacement parts sent to them by U.S. factories.

Production at CAMI would be hampered by the loss of parts from GM Canada’s St. Catharines engine and transmission plant. Besides St. Catharines and Oshawa Assembly, a parts depot in Woodstock, Ontario would also be affected by a strike.

Subsidies or no subsidies, the union’s goal of keeping Oshawa alive hinges on new products, and there seems to be no movement on that front. After losing truck and Chevrolet Camaro production in recent years, the plant’s two assembly lines are bleeding product. The plant handles overflow production of the Equinox, as well as the Chevrolet Impala, Buick Regal and Cadillac XTS — products that can (and in some cases, will) be built elsewhere. Its Consolidation Line could depart next year, with no guarantees that its Flex Line won’t do the same by 2019.

Speaking to the Toronto Star this week, Kristin Dziczek, director of research at the independent Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, said Unifor chose the right tack in seeking new product, but admits the situation doesn’t look good.

“There are no products hanging out there looking for a home,” she said, referring to Oshawa.

Meanwhile, Dias said he’s received support from Dennis Williams, president of the United Auto Workers. The two have a mutual agreement to not undermine any strike action taken by the other — meaning, in this case, that UAW won’t agree to increase production at U.S. plants to make up for a loss of Canadian product.

[Image: General Motors Canada]

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19 Comments on “Government Cash Could Sweeten GM Canada Contract Talks; CAMI Workers and UAW Vow to Support Strike...”

  • avatar

    Consolidation and Flex lines.

    I remember back in the day at Lordstown (which went on to become the Vega production site) GM built full frame B-body Impalas and unibody/subframe Firebirds on the same line.

  • avatar
    dash riprock

    CAW really has no good option at this point in time but to take a very hard line on product allocation. All signs point to GM closing Oshawa and with that, CAW loses jobs, dues, and, influence/power. It is now or never for CAW and their GM members

  • avatar

    Kudos …to the Cami folks,, and the UAW, for supporting, their brothers and sisters in the Shwa. Nobody on either side of the table wants this to get ugly, but it could.

    I can see all the negative comments coming. Lets not make UNIFOR the bad guy here. If, as many believe, GM fully intends to shut Oshawa down in 2019, why not just put that on the table ? Both sides could focus on an exit deal.

    These are grim times, at the Oshawa. I personally thought , it would have been all put out to bed by now.

    As reported in the Star article, this situation is far more complex, than it looks.

    • 0 avatar

      No, its just “don’t stop production, or we’ll stop production!”

      Maybe the union could help by offering classes on how to properly use a comma.

    • 0 avatar

      mikey – as you point out, it is complex. I suspect that both GM and UNIFOR are hoping that the Federal and Ontario Governments offer up some cash. It is likely to come from the Fed since the Liberals campaigned on economic stimulus. Western oil is no longer the economic driver so that puts pressure on Ottawa to shore up the Ontario Manufacturing heartland. Loosing a plant would be a blow to the Liberal Economic platform.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “EV Manufacturer Courting Government Money”… GM

  • avatar

    As long as there is a GM and a UAW, government bailouts with be the only real demand on the ransom note.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The union is clearly looking at payback for the money it spent getting the federal and provincial Liberals elected. That’s how government works in the Great White North.

    • 0 avatar

      Gardiner Westbound – um………… that is how government works PERIOD

      Why don’t you look up the main contributors to those on the other side of the isle??????

      You can’t use that big brush just on one side of the bench.

      It isn’t as big an issue in Canada as the USA since we have tighter controls on donations and 3rd party electioneering. Regardless of which party you support, those who write the cheques expect a return on investment.

      • 0 avatar

        @Gardiner…..I think Lou has pretty well summed it up in his previous comments. The so called “fiscally responsible” Conservative feds, went “all in” with big oil. Do you suppose there just might of been some big a$$ cheques ,slid across the table? At $44 USD a barrel, hows that working out, for us ?

        So in your world we just let auto manufacturing disappear . Ford, Honda, GM, Toyota and FCA will just set up in some other jurisdiction . Make no mistake, every other country , state ,city or county, will lay out the welcome mat, with check book in hand. Hey , we can go back to logging, and trapping, live off the land eh ?

        Enjoy our , oh so expensive “social safety net”…while you can

        • 0 avatar

          The safety net is just the beginning for liberals everywhere, even Canada. It’s not far from controlling the means of production, and Oshawa would be a possible place to start. Nationalize the plant and begin making government brand cars and trucks!

  • avatar

    GM’s main problem with Oshawa is the distinct lack of cactus and Spanish speakers. Nothing Canada can do about that.

  • avatar

    Consolidation or flex? Two tier pay?

    You don’t have to buy GM to support the autoworkers. Just be a tax payer. How’s that for two-tier choice?

  • avatar

    Called it.

    “The two have a mutual agreement to not undermine any strike action taken by the other”

    How sweet, especially since Jerry’s leverage isn’t even close.

  • avatar

    Taxpayers are some of the stupidest people on Earth.
    No wonder Bitcoin is at $600.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Not only do the corporate and union lobbyists contribute directly to candidates political campaigns but they furnish airplanes and galas to the candidates and write legislation for them. I am not as familiar with Canada but as for US politics this is standard and accepted practice. Also a candidate for office regardless of party uses party funds to buy clothes, pay debts and loans, and for other personal expenses that are outside their official duties or even the campaign itself. In the US if you are a Federal worker you are not allowed to accept a meal but you can accept a cup of coffee and maybe a doughnut. Politicians are held to a less strict and less ethical standard than a federal worker. This is one of the things that disgusts voters that regardless of political party that this is allowed to happen. Many have more respect for the car car salesman or the prostitute than someone running for political office. Subsidizing industries should not be a function of the Government but the USA is just as culpable as any other country.

    As for checks from the oil industry going to political candidates I can personally attest to this working in the 80s for an independent oil company. The political system encourages this and if you as a company have an investment in a specific state or municipality then you either contribute to a political campaign or your risk having your business investment jeopardized by a candidate who wins political office that you did not support. This is not right but under the current laws this is acceptable. In other words you pay to play.

    • 0 avatar

      Jeff S – We has a Senator just recently get hauled into court for “questionable” government billing of expenses. What made it worse was the Conservative government of the time tried to “pay back” his expenses. It was a PR nightmare for the government but the public has short attention spans. Once the Conservatives lost badly at the polls it was all but forgotten.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Lou BC–Sounds just like the good old USA. Corruption is in all political parties. Many political office holders make a career out of politics and there in lies the problem. The Democrats and the Republicans are very similar in that they are mainly in the business to getting their candidates elected and then take care of their major contributors.

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