The furore over NAFTA and job creation in Mexico swept into Canada Friday as General Motors Co. said it will eliminate 625 jobs at one of its Canadian assembly plants when it shifts production of a vehicle to Mexico this summer.
GM, whose Cami Automotive Inc., plant in Ingersoll, Ont., has been on a hiring spree and cranking out vehicles on overtime, shocked the union that represents its workers by revealing the job cuts months after adding Sunday overtime shifts to a plant that was already operating three shifts a day during the week and running overtime on Saturdays.
About 3,100 workers assemble the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers. Terrain production, however, is scheduled to be shifted to a plant in Mexico in July, union officials said.
They said they had been told earlier by GM officials that the new version of the Equinox they began producing earlier this month is popular enough to maintain the existing jobs at the plant.
GM introduced a new version of the Terrain at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this month amid criticism by President Donald Trump of auto makers – including GM – that are importing vehicles into the United States from Mexico.
Mr. Trump tweeted about GM's export of a small number of Chevrolet Cruze hatchback models out of Mexico earlier this month, which led to GM announcing that it will spend $1-billion (U.S.) at its U.S. plants and hire about 1,000 people.
The news about the job cuts at Cami comes one day after Mr. Trump ratcheted up the pressure on Mexico, with his officials announcing that a 20-per-cent tariff on all imports into the United States would pay for a wall he plans to build to stop illegal immigration from the country.
The White House later dialled those comments back to say that it was one option being considered, but Mr. Trump has promised to rip up the North American free-trade agreement.
He should do just that, Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, which represents the workers at Cami, said Friday.
"We need to renegotiate NAFTA," said Mr. Dias, who slammed the GM move as corporate greed.
Mike Van Boekel, chair of the Cami unit of Unifor local 88, said the layoff notices affect people who have been working at the plant for about a year.
The plant has been running six days a week for eight years and last fall GM asked the union to agree to Sunday overtime, Mr. Van Boekel said.
Keeping Terrain production in Canada would save the jobs, he said.
"How about we bring Trump here and see what he says about it?" he said.
General Motors of Canada Ltd. vice-president of corporate affairs David Paterson said the layoff notices are not related to the Terrain, but stem from the end of production of the older generation of the Equinox in July.
"In July we will lose the benefit of that temporary overlap of both new and old Equinox production at Cami," he said.