Auto giant General Motors has told the union representing nearly 3,000 striking autoworkers that the company is ramping up production of the Chevrolet Equinox at two plants in Mexico, Unifor’s national president says.
The news comes three weeks after Unifor workers hit the picket line at CAMI in Ingersoll, fighting mainly for assurances from the company that the Ontario plant be designated the main producer of the popular SUV.
The two Mexican plants will build the SUV for the North American market, Jerry Dias, national Unifor president, told CBC News on Thursday morning.
“This is about autoworkers in Mexico making $2 an hour [and] the movement of good paying middle-class jobs to Mexico,” Dias said from Washington, where he’s attending NAFTA talks.
“The message is very clear … Nobody’s going to tell GM where to build their vehicles … and frankly they don’t give a damn about Canadian or American jobs. It’s all about profit. It’s all about exploitation.”
The news also means the strike will go on longer than anybody anticipated, Dias said.
“They said they’re going to satisfy the North American market through their Mexican operations. In other words, the strike that’s going on right now at CAMI is going to continue. And I’m not sure when things are going to end,” he said.
CAMI strike victim of bad timing: auto analyst
NAFTA negotiations and “America first” trade policies may have contributed to drawing out the strike and causing GM to take a harder line, said Tony Faria, director of the Office of Automotive and Vehicle Research at the University of Windsor in Ontario.
“What Unifor is demanding is maybe the straw that broke the camel’s back. [GM could be saying] ‘We can’t do this. We can’t agree to investments, jobs, and everything else for the next five, ten years down the road when we don’t know the size of the road, we don’t know if there’s going to be a NAFTA five, ten years from now,'” Faria said.
“It was a gamble on the part of Unifor and a gamble they decided to take, and I’m sure that Unifor is a little upset that GM is taking, it looks like, a harder stand than Unifor expected.
“The auto companies have been setting up their supply chains for over 20 years now with the idea that there is a NAFTA and we can move parts and vehilces all around North America duty free. If NAFTA disappears, that’s going to be a real crimp to the auto companies.”
There is still “tremendous support” on the picket line, said Dan Borthwick, president of Unifor Local 88, which represents the Ingersoll workers.
CBC News has contacted GM Canada for comment and will update the story when that becomes available.