General Motors Co.’s Oshawa car assembly plant is expected to halt production on Friday, sending another 1,300 workers home as the strike by 49,000 GM auto workers in the United States enters its fifth day, Canadian union officials say.
The shutdown of the assembly line east of Toronto that makes Chevrolet Impalas and Cadillacs brings to 2,600 the number of Unifor employees on temporary layoff as a result of the United Auto Workers’ strike, which froze production at more than 50 GM plants and warehouses in the United States.
“The truck plant is currently down and the [car] plant will be down tomorrow with people laid off until further notice,” said Unifor’s Colin James, who represents hourly workers at the Oshawa factory, said on Thursday.
Oshawa’s Impalas and Cadillacs are assembled with about 30-per-cent U.S. parts, Mr. James said. The Oshawa truck assembly line makes Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, with components that are shipped from strike-bound GM plants in the United States.
Work at GM’s St. Catharines, Ont., plant, which makes V8 and V6 engines for U.S. assembly lines, is expected to partly halt production on Monday, as 800 of 1,100 workers are laid off, said Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor. The plant’s output of transmissions, which are shipped to the nearby Chevrolet Equinox plant in Ingersoll, Ont., is expected to continue.
The Ingersoll plant is expected to continue production of SUVs for another “two or three weeks,” Mr. Dias said. “Obviously, GM was doing some major stockpiling [of parts] somewhere.”
A GM spokeswoman declined to say if more Oshawa layoffs would happen on Friday.
The strike fallout, which is being felt at Ontario’s auto parts sector, underlines the interconnected nature of the North American auto industry. Auto parts makers based in Ontario employ 100,000 people and export $18-billion worth of components to the United States a year. The companies rely on GM to buy about 30 per cent of this.
“The supply base is getting whacked,” Mr. Dias said. “When Oshawa goes down tomorrow so does everybody else. So the impact is huge.”
The UAW went on strike on Monday as talks on a new collective agreement hit an impasse on the weekend. The union is demanding better pay and benefits, calling for a share of the Detroit-based company’s record profits as jobs and auto production shift to Mexico. GM said it has offered pay raises and US$7-billion in investments that will create 5,400 jobs.
GM workers in Canada and the United States are still reeling from the company’s announcement last year that it will close five assembly lines, including the Oshawa plant. The shutdown of the Oshawa assembly lines in December will eliminate about 3,000 jobs and ends more than 100 years of auto production in Oshawa. Under an agreement reached with Unifor in the spring, GM will make spare parts at the plant, retaining 300 union jobs.
Unifor in Canada is set to begin contract negotiations with GM next year, as the collective agreements expire in Sept., 2020, and Sept., 2021.
Mr. Dias said the relationship with GM “is at an all-time low.”
“It’s pretty difficult to get a deal with an employer when your members are just furious,” he said. “The UAW workers that are on strike feel completely betrayed and, frankly, so do we. Our members in Canada are in complete support of what’s going on.”