48,000 United Auto Workers walked off the job Monday in first national strike in more than a decade
General Motors Co. has halted car and truck production and temporarily laid off 2,000 employees at its Oshawa, Ont. plant as a massive strike at the automaker’s U.S. facilities continues to disrupt production throughout North America’s interwoven supply chains.
More than 48,000 United Auto Workers walked off the job at nearly 70 American plants on Monday after collective bargaining reached a stalemate over wages and health benefits at a time of record profits for GM. The carmaker last year announced plans to close five factories in the U.S. and Canada to save money as it tries to transition to a future of electric and automated vehicles.
Since auto manufacturing is a cross-border endeavour and most facilities only carry one or two days of parts inventory in a just-in-time system, Canadian GM plants and auto parts suppliers have been bracing for fallout from the strikes south of the border.
Oshawa was the first to shutter vehicle production , on Wednesday halting its truck line that makes the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado and sending approximately 1,200 workers home. On Friday, it confirmed it also shut the car line that makes the Chevrolet Impala, laying off an additional 800 workers.
“We have seen disruption of our vehicle assembly work at the Oshawa Assembly Plant due to the UAW strike. We plan to resume these operations as quickly as possible upon resolution of the UAW strike,” GM Canada spokeswoman Jennifer Wright said in an emailed statement.
Oshawa, which was one of the plants slated for closure in GM’s transition strategy, is still continuing its stamping operations, Wright noted. The workers will receive their full salaries as part of a separate agreement that will see vehicle production wind down altogether at the plant in December. The facility will instead become a parts manufacturing plant, as well as home to a test track for automated vehicles. The current production stoppage does not affect the transition plans, Wright said.
GM’s plants in Ingersoll and St. Catharines continued to operate as of Friday morning. St. Catharines, which employs 1,300 people, makes engines and transmissions, many destined for U.S. markets.
Analysts expect the CAMI plant in Ingersoll, which employs 2,700 workers and assembles the Chevrolet Equionx, to continue production for at least another week if the strike continues thanks to a build-up of inventory in case of a disruption.
GM Canada would not speculate on whether or when CAMI or St. Catharines would be forced to close due to the labour action in the U.S.
Negotiations are expected to continue throughout the weekend if a tentative agreement is not reached, according to a Thursday statement from UAW vice president and director Terry Dittes.
“This strike is for all the right reasons: to raise the standard of living of our members and their families and for workers across this country, to achieve true job security, our fair share of the profits, affordable health care and a path to permanent seniority for temporary members,” Dittes wrote.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019