With No New Product Promised, GM Canada Workers Could Walk Off the Job at Midnight

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
with no new product promised gm canada workers could walk off the job at midnight

GM Canada and the union representing Detroit Three autoworkers north of the border have entered their final day of contract talks ahead of a midnight strike deadline.

Unless both sides achieve a breakthrough today, there’s little reason to believe a walkout at the company’s Oshawa, Woodstock and St. Catharines, Ontario facilities won’t occur as the clock strikes twelve.

A deal with Unifor hinges on new product commitment from GM Canada, especially for its Oshawa assembly plant. Product is drying up at the century-old plant, which could be shuttered within a couple of years if GM doesn’t allocate new vehicles to its two production lines.

As of yesterday, the product pipeline was still dry, even as Unifor president Jerry Dias put on a cautiously hopeful face.

“I’m feeling much better today than I did yesterday but I’m still not feeling great,” Dias told the Globe and Mail. “We are having some constructive conversations, finally.”

Last week, both sides were said to be far apart in negotiations, with little to no movement on the key bargaining issue. Despite Dias’ claims, a “high-ranking” union source told the newspaper that GM has not offered any new product for the Oshawa plant, which employs about 2,500 hourly workers.

Hampering the talks is the simple reality that GM has no product to send to Oshawa. The automaker’s roster of existing and planned vehicles are all allocated to other plants, while the Oshawa-built Chevrolet Impala, Buick Regal and Cadillac XTS (as well as overflow Chevrolet Equinox production) can easily be sent elsewhere.

GM is Unifor’s target company in this round of contract talks. Any agreement with that automaker will guide contract talks with the remaining two. In the event of a strike, GM Canada’s CAMI assembly plant, covered by a separate collective agreement, has vowed to not use replacement parts sent from U.S. plants. That could halt the production of Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers.

[Image: General Motors]

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  • TDIGuy TDIGuy on Sep 19, 2016

    So unless the company allocates more production there instead of somewhere that makes (more?) money, they are going to stop working? I'm understanding why GM needed to be bailed out.

  • Whittaker Whittaker on Sep 19, 2016

    A decade ago the Canadian and Ontario Governments paid billions to take 11.7% ownership in GM to help save them from a forced rummage sale. In a sane world that taxpayer investment would have come with long-term requirements for GM to keep a certain percentage of its global production in Canada. In a saner world GM would have been sold piecemeal and the Canadian factories would have different owners. Most likely, those owners wouldn't have the financial and political clout to survive a strike by Unifor. Instead we have the current situation, where GM is flush with cash and holds all the cards. Like it or not, the power of the auto workers has always been the threat of a strike...Mutual Assured Destruction, if you will. Now, the survival of GM is secured not by compromise with the workers but by the US and Canadian Govts. Without the power to bring GM to its knees, Unifor is reduced to begging its Govt to give GM more handouts so GM will continue to employ them. In short, the belief that GM is 'too big to fail' has sacrificed the interests of auto workers in favor of the interest of GM. Funny how those heartfelt plans to save the working class always entail giving large corporations loads of money, and always have the "unintended" consequence of screwing the middle class.

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    • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Sep 19, 2016

      @psarhjinian While you are correct, some workers can effectively produce labor shortages by transferring to other companies or other cities. The effect would be companies providing competitive wages, benefits, working conditions, and terms so that workers don't leave. This is what the transplants have done, and it has worked well enough to keep unionization at bay in those cases. However, for many workers this approach is easier said than done, since their skill set is not easily transferable. Freedom of information is another tool for labor: Unfair wages, working conditions, etc can easily be broadcasted today, unlike any time in the last century. I find it interesting that the Unifor discussion is leveraging on product placement rather than wages, since nobody wants to mention how distorted the Unifor wages & benefits are with respect to reality in the rest of the economy.

  • SilverCoupe I am one of those people whose Venn diagram of interests would include Audis and Formula One.I am not so much into Forums, though. I spend enough time just watching the races.
  • Jeff S Definitely and very soon. Build a hybrid pickup and price it in the Maverick price range. Toyota if they can do this soon could grab the No 1 spot from Maverick.
  • MaintenanceCosts Would be a neat car if restored, and a lot of good parts are there. But also a lot of very challenging obstacles, even just from what we can see from the pictures. It's going to be hard to justify a restoration financially.
  • Jeff S Ford was in a slump during this era and its savior was a few years away from being introduced. The 1986 Taurus and Sable saved Ford from bankruptcy and Ford bet the farm on them. Ford was also helped by the 1985 downsize front wheel drive full sized GM cars. Lincoln even spoofed these new full size GM cars in an ad basically showing it was hard to tell the difference between a Cadillac, Buick, and Oldsmobile. This not only helped Lincoln sales but Mercury Grand Marquis and Ford Crown Victoria sales. For GM full size buyers that liked the downsized GM full size 77 to 84 they had the Panther based Lincoln Town Cars, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Ford Crown Victorias that were an alternative to the new GM front wheel drive full size cars that had many issues when they were introduced in 1985 and many of those issues were not resolved for several years. The Marks were losing popularity after the Mark Vs.
  • SCE to AUX Toyota the follower, as usual. It will be 5 years before such a vehicle is available.I can't think of anything innovative from them since the Gen 1 Prius. Even their mythical solid state battery remains vaporware.They look like pre-2009 General Motors. They could fall hard.