Supply of Popular Chevy Equinox Threatened by Strike

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Workers at the General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) Cami assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, have voted to authorize a strike if negotiations between the union and GM Canada fail to meet union demands by the current contract expiration date of Sunday, September 17, at 11 p.m. Some 99.8% of union members voted to authorize the strike.

GM shifted production of its Terrain compact sport utility vehicle (SUV) from the Ingersoll plant to the San Luis Potosi plant in Mexico. The company in January announced the layoff of some 600 workers at the Canadian plant, and so far 424 jobs have been shaved due to buyouts, retirements and some recalls of formerly laid-off workers.

According to the union, more than 1,200 workers voted last Sunday to authorize the strike, and no one recalls ever seeing that level of participation in a strike authorization vote.

GM will continue to build its best-selling Chevy Equinox compact SUV at the Ingersoll plant. GM sold 28,245 of the vehicles in the United States last month, to garner a 10.5% share of the compact SUV market. Sales were up 20% month over month and 85% year over year. For the year to date, Equinox sales are up 17% compared with the first eight months of 2016.

Union members viewed the layoffs as an intimidation tactic. Union chairperson Mike Van Boekel said:

They want to be rewarded for the last eight years of working six days a week, of being second-to-none in quality, in being among the leanest, most efficient plants in the world. They want to be recognized. … The best word to describe the mood here now is frustration, it is very high. Workers feel there is no respect for the job they perform and how well they do it.

The union is seeking higher wages, benefit improvements, and an investment in the Ingersoll plant similar to the $421 million investment GM promised to make in three other Canadian plants earlier this year. A total of $300 million of the agreed investment will go to the company’s Oshawa, Ontario, plant, which had been tabbed for closure in 2019.

GM Canada has not commented on the strike authorization vote or the progress of the contract talks.