Oshawa, Ontario — The United States’ United Auto Workers (UAW) are reportedly upset over Unifor’s tentative agreement with General Motors, which, if ratified, will see Oshawa’s previously shuttered GM assembly plant reopen in 2021.
UAW workers are reportedly concerned with volume reductions hitting plants south of the U.S.-Canadian border, citing Canada’s “shrinking” automotive industry an a “firm reversal” of the downsizing trend.
“The Canadian auto industry has been shrinking,” said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. “And they’ve not been getting their proportional share of investment even over the last decade or so. This is a firm reversal. Bringing a plant back is a reversal and getting this much investment is a reversal of those trends.”
“It’s not a concern today or tomorrow, but in the next year and a half,” said Rich LeTourneau, UAW Local 2209 plant chairman in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “It’s when the market is not peaking anymore… I know how this works when you have too many plants budgeted the same. There must be a volume reduction somewhere. Where does that hit?”
Fort Wayne plant management, submitted in recent weeks a proposal to GM for what LeTourneau calls an “expensive band-aid,” of $15 million into the paint shop to help increase production from 64 ½ trucks per hour to closer to 70; which is still below the 74 trucks per hour that were produced before 2015 when GM announced a 1.2 billion investment into the plant.
Eric Welter, UAW Local 598 plant chairman for Flint Truck, shared a similar sentiment: “People work very hard, a lot of weekends to make all of this product. To have it sourced somewhere else, we don’t know what that means for the future. It’s not dooms and gloom, there’s a solid production, but it’s a little disappointing they didn’t give us a chance at increasing our line speed vs. retooling another plant.”
On Thursday, Oct. 5 Unifor struck a deal with GM after it extended its contract past the 11:59 deadline. The agreement is like those ratified with Ford and FCA NV and covers 1, 700 employees at GM’s St. Catherine’s Propulsion plant, Oshawa stamped products and service operations, and a parts distribution centre in Ontario.
Ratification votes begin Sunday.
“The pandemic threw a curve into everything,” Unifor President Jerry Dias said during a news conference. “Showrooms are sitting at less than 50 percent of what they would like to be. The pandemic has thrown a curve into the auto industry, so they are looking for opportunities to maximize the capacity.”
GM spokesman Dan Flores said all of the company’s production decisions are based on market demand: “We’re behind the eight balls when it comes to inventory, and we’re looking at all opportunities to maximize full-size production