Canadian auto local to resume GM talks

Canadian auto local to resume GM talks
Sat, Sep 7

Unifor Local 88, formerly known as Canadian Auto Workers Local 88, will return to the bargaining table Sunday with General Motors Co., hoping to come to an agreement on a new contract for about 2,600 hourly workers at GM’s CAMI assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario.

Local President Dan Borthwick said Friday that formal negotiations with GM will begin Sunday and that the union has scheduled a ratification vote on Sept. 15. The current contract expires at 11:59 p.m. Sept. 16.

Borthwick wouldn’t comment on specifics that the union is seeking for its membership.

“We want to improve the conditions both in the plant and economically for our members,” Borthwick said in a telephone interview.

Borthwick said it’s unclear whether Unifor 88 will end up with a three- or four-year contract.

GM Canada spokeswoman Adria MacKenzie said in an email, “We are optimistic that we can work with our CAW partners to overcome challenges together and find creative solutions to ensure we are competitive. There is still more work to be done to enhance the competitiveness of our Canadian operations and we will continue to work with the CAW to identify opportunities to improve.”

Last fall, the former CAW reached a four-year agreement to cover more than 5,600 hourly GM workers at Oshawa Assembly Plant, St. Catharines Powertrain Plant and a parts distribution center in Woodstock, Ontario. Those workers received a ratification bonus of 3,000 Canadian dollars and will get annual CA$2,000 lump-sum payments in the final three years of the contract. GM also will create or retain 1,750 jobs and spend $675 million at its Oshawa and St. Catharines plants.

The former CAW also reached four-year deals last year covering hourly workers at Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler

Group LLC.

CAMI previously was a joint venture between GM and Suzuki Motor Corp. until GM in December 2009 said it was buying out Suzuki’s stake.

Unifor Local 88 said the Canadian and provincial governments in summer 2009 pushed for the union and CAMI to reach a labor agreement similar to what the union had reached with Chrysler and GM earlier that year, or risk losing financial

assistance being given to GM during its financial crisis. The plant’s membership ratified a three-year agreement that expires this month that included things such as freezing wages and pensions and requiring a monthly contribution for health care. Much of the agreement didn’t take effect until September 2010 after another contract expired.

GM and Unifor Local 88 started negotiations earlier this year, but the union in late March canceled a scheduled ratification vote and around the same time announced formal talks were being suspended while the parties reviewed “a number of issues.” The sides have had informal discussions since.

In August, the local union’s membership voted to authorize a strike if necessary, with 98.6 percent of members supporting, Borthwick said.

“I think the deadline is necessary, but I believe a collective agreement can be reached between both parties,” he said.

Workers at CAMI build the popular Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers

on three shifts, six days a week.

GM in March announced plans to invest $250 million into CAMI, adding flexible body shop tooling and equipment and change the manufacturing line to bring vehicles to market quicker.

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