GM Ends Canada Plant Strike After Workers Cave on Mexico Demands

  • Automaker refused to name factory its lead producer of top SUV
  • Production resumes late Monday after 86% vote in favor of deal

Employees and Unifor members hold "On Strike" signs outside the General Motors Co. plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada, on Sept. 20, 2017. 

Photographer: James MacDonald/Bloomberg

Workers at a General Motors Co. factory in Canada ended a month-long strike by approving a new agreement despite their union’s inability to secure a key protection against work being moved to Mexico.

Members of the Unifor union local at GM’s assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, voted 86 percent in favor of a deal reached late Friday. The automaker refused to designate the plant its lead producer of the Chevrolet Equinox sport utility vehicle, which would have dictated preferential treatment over the two facilities building the key model in Mexico.

“We weren’t able to secure a lead production letter from General Motors, but we were able to improve some of our programs that would soften the event if there in fact is a layoff or closure in the future,” Unifor Local 88 President Dan Borthwick said in a phone interview.

The union seized on GM’s unwillingness to make the plant its lead Equinox factory as an example of how Nafta was failing to protect auto workers from losing out to lower-cost Mexico. Canada lost more than 53,000 automotive jobs from 2001 to 2014 before employment rebounded slightly in recent years, according to the Automotive Policy Research Centre at McMaster University.

Read more: Striking GM Canada Autoworkers Struggle With Nafta Realities

GM agreed to pay the roughly 2,500 workers at the factory a 2 percent raise in the first and last year of the four-year contract, plus a C$6,000 ($4,800) lump-sum performance bonus and C$2,000 annual bonuses, Borthwick said. The deal also increases funding for early retirements and buyouts to C$290 million, from C$190 million, and ensures that laid-off workers at Ingersoll will be first in line for job openings at GM’s other Canadian plants.

The factory will resume production at 11 p.m. Toronto time, the union said. Workers have been on strike since Sept. 17 at the plant, which GM recently spent C$800 million on to retool.

Last week, a company official said GM was looking at alternative locations for production of the Equinox as the strike dragged on. It was the first walkout at a Canadian assembly plant since 1996.

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