Thousands of Ontario autoworkers out of work as GM strike in U.S. drags on

Thousands of automotive workers across Ontario are temporarily out of work as a strike at General Motors in the U.S. stretches into its ninth day.

The use of temp workers, wages, job security, health care and other issues are at the centre of a labour dispute between the automaker and the UAW, which represents 49,000 GM workers in the U.S. More than 30 GM facilities across nine states are affected, as striking workers have demonstrated and shut down non-unionized facilities in Tennessee and elsewhere.

Only U.S. facilities are directly affected with striking workers, but the impact of the strike has stretched to Canada.

GM facilities in Ontario have had to temporarily lay off staff, because there is no work to do and a lack of components to assemble.

Operations at the GM plant in Oshawa have virtually ground to a halt, and the St. Catharines engine plant is running at half strength.

CAMI plant still producing

Independent automotive analyst Dennis Desrosiers says 2,000 people are currently out of work in Oshawa and about 700 in St. Catharines.

So far, GM’s CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., is still producing SUVs, but that can’t go on indefinitely if the strike continues, DesRosiers said.

“The fact that CAMI is still running more than a week into the strike is a definite positive for the Canadian industry,” he said.

“Not only is CAMI the largest GM facility in Canada, it is also the GM plant with the most extensive ties into the Canadian auto parts sector,” he said.

DesRosiers added that so far, the impact at car dealerships is likely to be minimal as the company has enough inventory to keep up with demand. But if it continues, car buyers can expect to see shortages.

“In certain segments (large SUVs especially), inventories are tight, and should the strike continue, shortages will undoubtedly occur,” he said.

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