GM strike in US could threaten hundreds of Canadian jobs: Unifors Dias – BNNBloomberg.ca

GM strike in US could threaten hundreds of Canadian jobs: Unifor\s Dias - BNNBloomberg.ca
UAW official: GMs offer came too late to avoid strike
As 49,000 United Auto Workers in the U.S. strike against General Motors, there's a risk the walkout could shut down GM Canada's plants and auto-parts makers in Ontario.

The North American auto industry is highly integrated, with assembly plants here in Canada reliant on parts coming from the U.S. and Mexico. 

Operations between the GM plants are somewhat integrated as the plant in St. Catharines, Ont. produces engines that are shipped to 11 different GM assembly facilities worldwide. Meanwhile, GMs Oshawa assembly plant, which is set to close at the end of this year, relies on products from the U.S.

GM has three plants in Ontario — assembly plants in Ingersoll and Oshawa, and an engine and transmission plant in St. Catharines.

GM is going to have to make some firm commitments. Id expect that the workers in the United States arent going to accept the fact that theres a continued migration of their jobs to Mexico – thats the elephant in the room, Dias said.

Because the auto supply chain is integrated, Canadian plants could soon be unable to continue working because of a shortage of parts. GM Canada did not say how soon Canadian plants might be affected.

It really is about the elephant in the room, which is GMs continued support of their Mexican operations at the chagrin of the Canadian and U.S. operations, Dias said, adding its too tough to tell when the strike will end.

But it could happen quickly. GM uses "just-in-time" delivery, which means hundreds of parts are moving across the border every day. 

The United Auto Workers union said the fight for fair wages and job security are among the issues behind the strike – its first one against GM in 12 years – which could cost GM about US$50 million per day.

If the engines or transmissions St. Catharines is building are destined for cars assembled in the U.S., the plant may have to slow or stop operations. Similarly, if the assembly plants are depending on parts from the U.S., they may have to halt operations.

GM Canada told Bloomberg News the strike isnt having an impact on Canadian plants yet, though it is monitoring the situation closely. Dias said Canadian plants could see job losses within days.

It would be about two months before auto dealerships are affected by a shortage of product, according to the parent company.

Unifor president Jerry Dias told BNN Bloomberg Monday the strike, which saw nearly 50,000 U.S. workers walk off the job Sunday, will also likely impact GM operations in both Canada and Mexico.

Canadian workers are represented by a different union, Unifor, and its contract schedule is different from the U.S. Contracts do not expire until September 2020 and September 2021.

Clearly, its going to have an impact of several hundred jobs in Oshawa, as well as probably a couple of hundred in St. Catharines, Dias told BNN Bloomberg in a television interview.

Workers picket GM plants as UAW contract talks resume

But Unifor issued a statement on Sunday saying it "supports the UAW in negotiations for a fair contract settlement with General Motors."

The General Motors Co. strike in the United States could impact hundreds of jobs in Canada, according to the head of the union representing the countrys auto workers.

"The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future," the statement continued.

GM's Oshawa assembly plant is set to close at the end of the year, one of five plants in North America that the auto giant is closing.

The unions contract with GM expired Saturday night, but pacts with the companys crosstown rivals, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, were extended indefinitely. The union has picked GM as its target company this year, and any deal it negotiates will be used as a template for the others. GM was picked because its the most profitable of the three, and because its plans to close four U.S. factories have angered union members.

That is one of the key issues for the UAW in the U.S., which is pressing GM to schedule new models for the four U.S. plants it is closing.

Video: UAW members walk out on GM over contract dispute

Unifor has pressed GM Canada unsuccessfully to extend the life of the Oshawa plant, arguing the automaker made a commitment to at least 2020 when it accepted the 2008 government bailout.

Because public statements from both sides conflict, its hard to tell how long the strike will last, said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of labor and industry at the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think tank. The length depends on how far apart they really are and where the lines in the sand are drawn, she said.

GM is negotiating a shift toward more electric cars and investing heavily in automation, considered among the key trends in the auto industry.

North American car sales have boomed in the past three years, but are stagnating this year as young consumers put off owning vehicles.

Analysts at Cox Automotive said GM has enough vehicles on dealer lots to last about 77 days at the current sales pace. Thats well above the industry average of 61. But supplies of the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban large SUVs, which generate big money for the company, are well below the industry average.

But GM made $10.8 billion in pretax profit in 2018 and the UAW is arguing it deserves a wage hike and better benefits to share in the good fortune.

It's not just GM plants here in Canada, but also other auto-parts makers that could be affected.

Before the talks broke off, GM offered to build a new all-electric pickup truck at a factory in Detroit that is slated to close next year, according to a person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The person wasnt authorized to disclose details of the negotiations.

2020 Democrats cheer auto worker strike as they look to top Trump in swing state Michigan

That's one reason Flavio Volpe, president of Canada's Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association, hopes the dispute will be quickly resolved.

President Donald Trump lamented the situation on Twitter — writing here we go again” — and urged both parties return to the negotiating table to make a deal. Trump had attacked GM weeks earlier for moving facilities overseas, which remains a major part of his campaign message to union and working-class voters in the industrial Midwest.

General Motors auto workers strike in US

The last strike by the UAW was in 2007, and it only lasted 17 hours, so there was not much impact on Canadian operations.

More than 49,000 members of the United Auto Workers union began striking early Monday morning after contract negotiations with the largest American automaker soured. Several Democrats running for president said GM is unfairly treating its union workers, who are seeking higher wages and better benefits in their first strike since 2007.

U.S. workers union starts first strike against GM in 12 years

Before that a strike at just two major parts plants in Flint, Mich., in 1998 that lasted 54 days eventually shut down much of GM's North American operations.

Democratic presidential candidates insinuated corporate greed was behind the breakdown in contract negotiations, but GM said its offer prioritizes investment in employees and communities. The automaker proposed a deal that called for $7 billion in investment in its facilities, wage increases and new health benefits.

A long strike could have a big impact on Canadian workers. But it might not significantly affect the Canadian and U.S. economy.

If the strike lasts to the end of September, it would take only 0.1 per cent off annualized U.S. GDP growth in the third quarter, according to CIBC economist Avery Shenfeld.

"Impacts on Canada would be even more modest. Just to give a sense of scale, in the unlikely case where the strike lasts through [the fourth quarter] in its entirety, it would subtract a more meaningful 0.7 per cent off that quarter's annualized pace in the U.S., and take a bit of a shine off Canada as well."

Video: Nearly 50K workers strike against General Motors

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Members of Michigans Democratic congressional delegation also weighed in, either to voice their support for striking workers or call for both sides to hammer out a new contract. Republican representatives in Congress have yet to weigh in, as of Monday morning.

Davison resident Jeff Elkins, 37 and a GM employee who works on the line, walks across Van Slyke Road proudly waving a UAW flag as General Motors employees leave the Flint Assembly Plant at midnight as part of the national strike on Sept. 16, 2019 in Flint, Michigan. (Jake May / The Flint Journal via AP)

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., threw his support behind UAW workers standing up to the greed of General Motors. Sanders, who won Michigans 2016 Democratic primary, said the company hoarded its wealth despite being bailed out by taxpayers in 2008.

DETROIT — A strike by over 49,000 United Auto workers against General Motors could have been averted had the company made its latest offer sooner, the unions top negotiator said in a letter to the company.

The talks this year have been overshadowed by a growing federal corruption probe that snared a top union official on Thursday. Vance Pearson, head of a regional office based near St. Louis, was charged in an alleged scheme to embezzle union money and spend cash on premium booze, golf clubs, cigars and swanky stays in California. It's the same region that UAW President Gary Jones led before taking the union's top office last year. Jones himself has been touched by the investigation, leading some union members to call for him to step down, but he hasn't been charged.

In the letter dated Sunday, UAW Vice-President Terry Dittes told GMs labour relations chief that the latest offer could have made it possible to reach an agreement and avoid the strike that shut down more than 50 GM factories and parts warehouses just after midnight on Monday.

The union's contract with GM expired Saturday night, but pacts with the company's crosstown rivals, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, were extended indefinitely. The union has picked GM as its target company this year, and any deal it negotiates will be used as a template for the others. GM was picked because it's the most profitable of the three, and because its plans to close four U.S. factories have angered union members.

Video: GM workers to strike amid contract negotiation

The letter could suggest that the company and union arent as far apart as the rhetoric leading up to the strike had indicated. Negotiations resumed in Detroit on Monday after breaking off during the weekend.

GM, however, said it offered pay raises and $7 billion worth of U.S. factory investments resulting in 5,400 new positions, a minority of which would be filled by existing employees. GM would not give a precise number. The company also said it offered higher profit sharing, "nationally leading" health benefits and an $8,000 payment to each worker upon ratification.

Ford, Fiat-Chrysler workers call for all-out strike alongside GM workers

But union spokesman Brian Rothenberg said they have come to terms on only 2% of the new four-year contract. "Weve got 98% to go," he said Monday.

In the letter to Scott Sandefur, GMs vice-president of labour relations, Dittes wrote that the company waited until just two hours before the contract expired on Saturday night to make its first serious offer. "Had we received this proposal earlier in the process, it may have been possible to reach a tentative agreement and avoid a strike," Dittes wrote.

Some 46,000 General Motors auto workers strike in US – The Jakarta Post

On Sunday, Dittes said a strike is the unions last resort but is needed because both sides are far apart in negotiating a new contract.

In the letter released by the union Monday, Dittes wrote that there are many important items left in the talks including wage increases, pay for new hires, job security, profit sharing and treatment of temporary workers.

"We are willing to meet as frequently, and for as long as it takes, to reach an agreement that treats our members fairly," Dittes wrote.

Night shift workers at an aluminum castings factory in Bedford, Ind., that makes transmission casings and other parts shut off their machines and headed for the exits, said Dave Green, a worker who transferred from the now-shuttered GM small-car factory in Lordstown, Ohio.

GM said Sunday it offered pay raises and $7 billion worth of U.S. factory investments resulting in 5,400 new positions, a minority of which would be filled by existing employees. GM would not give a precise number. The company also said it offered higher profit sharing, "nationally leading" health benefits and an $8,000 payment to each worker upon ratification.

The Cami Assembly plant in Ingersoll will not be immediately impacted by it, said Mike Van Boekel, chairperson of Unifor Local 88, representing auto workers. The automaker gets its engines, both four- and six-cylinder models, from a GM plant in Flint Michigan that’s ground to a halt due to the strike.

Before the talks broke off, GM offered new products to replace work at two of four U.S. factories that it intends to close.

The company pledged to build a new all-electric pickup truck at a factory in Detroit, according to a person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The person wasnt authorized to disclose details of the negotiations.

The automaker also offered to open an electric vehicle battery plant in Lordstown, Ohio, where it has a huge factory that has already stopped making cars and will be closed. The new factory would be in addition to a proposal to make electric vehicles for a company called Workhorse, the person said.

GM Chief Executive Mary Barra met with Trump ahead of the strike deadline. Trump has attacked GM for Barra’s decision to stop building small cars at an assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio. The state is pivotal to Trump’s re-election.

Its unclear how many workers the two plants would employ. The closures, especially of the Ohio plant, have become issues in the 2020 presidential campaign. President Donald Trump has consistently criticized the company and demanded that Lordstown be reopened.

Kristin Dziczek, vice-president of labour and industry for the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think-tank , said the letter and resumption of contract talks are encouraging signs. "It makes me think that both sides are probably closer than it might have seemed before," she said.

But the union and company still are far apart on use of temporary workers and accelerating the pay raises for new hires so they reach the top of the union scale faster, she said.

Trump on Sunday took to Twitter to urge the UAW and GM to “get together and make a deal!” GM spokesperson Tony Cervone said the automaker “couldn’t agree more” with Trump’s call.

Dziczek and Art Wheaton, an auto industry expert at the Worker Institute at Cornell University, say GM left out key details when it made part of its offer public, and working out those details could make the strike last longer.

DETROIT — Negotiators for General Motors Co and the United Auto Workers are scheduled to restart bargaining Monday to resolve a strike that shut down the automaker’s highly profitable U.S. operations.

Union Votes to Strike at General Motors US Plants

"I think GM kind of sabotaged some of the negotiations by going immediately to the public," Wheaton said. "It really distorts the offer."

Wheaton questioned the time frame for Lordstown to get the electric battery factory, which he said would take years to plan and build.

Early Monday, workers shut down 33 manufacturing plants in nine states across the U.S., as well as 22 parts distribution warehouses.

GM workers to go on nationwide strike for first time in 12 years

Its the first national strike by the union since a two-day walkout in 2007 that had little impact on the company.