General Motors Co. has recalled its Oshawa, Ont., work force and resumed production at the factory east of Toronto, after the Detroit-based company reached a tentative deal to end a month-long strike by 48,000 United Auto Workers in the United States.
About 2,200 workers at the Oshawa plant, which makes the Chevrolet Impala and GM pickup trucks, were returning to work on Friday, but 730 of their counterparts remain on layoff at GM’s engine plant in St. Catharines, Ont., a Unifor union official said. The St. Catharines plant continued to produce transmissions during the strike, employing about 300 workers.
The nearby GM plant in Ingersoll, which makes the Chevrolet Equinox SUV, also continued to operate with 2,700 hourly and salaried employees and three weekly shifts. "In Canada, we are working hard to get all three GM Canada operations back to normal as soon as possible,” GM spokeswoman Jennifer Wright said on Friday. “We called all workers back at Oshawa today and will be resuming car production.”
The UAW said on Thursday that U.S. workers at GM will stay off the job while they vote on a proposed contract that delivers higher pay for full-time workers and better terms for temporary workers, but allows the automaker to close three U.S. plants.
U.S. union leaders are giving the striking workers until Oct. 25 to vote on the contract terms, but have recommended ratification of the deal.
However, under the deal, GM will move ahead with closing a Lordstown, Ohio, facility and two parts plants in Baltimore and Warren, Mich. Workers from Lordstown on Thursday were outside GM’s Detroit headquarters, where UAW leaders were meeting, to protest against the planned agreement.
The shutdowns, which were announced last year, also included GM’s Oshawa plant. Impala production is set to halt by the end of October, eliminating 600 jobs, said Colin James, president of the Unifor local that represents the workers. Another 1,400 jobs are to be gone by the end of November, when truck productions stops. There is a chance truck production will be extended to make up for lost output during the strike, Mr. James said in a phone interview on Friday.
GM will continue to employ about 300 people at the plant making spare parts.
GM’s Ms. Wright would not confirm Mr. James‘s timelines for the plant’s shutdown, saying only that vehicle production in Oshawa will cease “at the end of 2019.”
In the tentative agreement, GM appears to have dodged a significant addition to its long-term balance sheet liabilities by agreeing to make a one-time cash distribution to UAW members eligible for pensions.
The union said GM has agreed to put a “new product” in the company’s Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant as part of the deal. Details were not provided in the UAW summary, but sources have said the plant will build electric trucks.
The decision to keep the strike going through next week reflects the pressure on top UAW leaders amid a continuing federal corruption probe of the union. Disappointment among rank and file at the failure to prevent the plant shutdowns and block GM from moving work to Mexico could be challenges for union leaders as they seek to have the deal ratified.
In 2015, UAW workers at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV rejected the first version of a contract. This time, UAW leaders are keeping workers on strike pay of US$275 a week, while they decide on the tentative agreement.
The strike cost GM an estimated US$2-billion according to analysts, hurt auto suppliers and played a role in U.S. manufacturing output falling more than expected in September.
The longest U.S. strike against a Detroit automaker since 1970 also became a political event. Democratic presidential candidates joined UAW picket lines, eager to win union votes in Midwest swing states. For his part, U.S. President Donald Trump put pressure on GM chief executive officer Mary Barra before the strike to preserve jobs at the car plant in Lordstown that she had targeted for closing. The White House did not comment.
With a report from Reuters
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