About 3,900 people in Southern Ontario’s auto sector were laid off this week as the five-day strike by 49,000 General Motors Co. workers in the United States halts the supply chain that links North American car production.
The temporary layoffs include 2,000 hourly workers at GM’s car and truck plant in Oshawa, Ont., and another 1,700 unionized employees at the companies that serve and supply the GM factory east of Toronto, according to the Detroit-based automaker and a union official.
The United Auto Workers strike at GM’s U.S. operations began on Monday, stopping work at more than 50 plants and warehouses, and ending the flow of parts and vehicles on which the North American auto industry depends.
“Vehicle operations in Oshawa have stopped as a result of the UAW strike,” said Jennifer Wright, a spokeswoman for GM Canada.
The GM suppliers that have laid off Unifor employees include seat maker Lear Corp., Ceva Logistics, Syncreon and Oakley Industries, said Colin James, president of Unifor Local 222. Also laid off are the auto plant’s cleaners, security guards and cafeteria workers. “They’ll be off until further notice,” Mr. James said by phone.
About 70 Oshawa workers were on the job on Friday, stamping hoods and fenders that are being stockpiled until production resumes.
“Our focus is to keep our Canadian operations running, and we successfully did that this week, in some capacity, with all three facilities running all week,” Ms. Wright said.
Lakeside Plastics, which makes car interiors at a plant south of Windsor, Ont., ceased most production on Thursday and sent about 100 people home. Martin Transportation Systems, a Michigan trucking company that operates in Ontario, laid off about 100 drivers earlier this week as the cross-border flow of auto parts ceased, Unifor said.
An industry rule of thumb is that there are six or seven parts-supplier jobs for every auto-plant position. However, the Oshawa plant’s economic footprint has shrunk as output has declined and suppliers adjusted their operations ahead of the plant’s impending shutdown. The plant is slated to close in December, part of a U.S.-Canada round of shutdowns that GM announced last year, as it moves jobs and production to Mexico and eliminates slower-selling vehicles from its lineup.
Still, a source said that about 4,000 to 5,000 supplier jobs could be temporarily lost due to the current halt at the Oshawa plant. The Globe and Mail is keeping the source’s name confidential because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.
Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, said the Ontario-based parts makers that supply GM plants in Ontario and the United States are “getting whacked” by the strike. “When Oshawa goes down … so does everybody else. So the impact is huge,” Mr. Dias said.
Auto-parts makers in the province employ 100,000 people and export $18-billion worth of components to the United States a year. They rely on GM for as much as one-third of export and domestic sales.
Martinrea International, a supplier to GM, did not respond to a phone call and e-mail on Friday.
Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, which represents 300 companies in Canada, declined to provide details on job cuts at the companies he speaks for.
He said he is surprised that the strike has been prolonged, given the high stakes for both sides. “The last thing the UAW needs is to be known as a continuity risk, and the last thing General Motors needs is to lose more market share,” Mr. Volpe said.
The Oshawa plant east of Toronto assembles Chevrolet Impalas, Cadillacs and two models of GM pickup trucks, all dependent on a large share of parts from GM’s U.S. operations. GM’s Chevrolet Equinox SUV plant in Ingersoll, Ont., and the powertrain factory in St. Catharines, Ont., continue to produce, although the Unifor union predicts that the latter plant will soon halt output of engines, most of which are shipped to the United States. The Ingersoll plant is expected to operate for several more days.
Mr. Dias said about 800 workers on GM’s St. Catharines engine line could be laid off by Monday.
The UAW union walked out on Monday after the two sides failed to agree on a new contract.
The UAW said on Thursday that talks with GM have yielded some progress but many issues are unresolved. Negotiations could continue into the weekend, the union said.