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GM contract talks at Ontario Cami plant stall

An auto worker at the CAMI Automotive facility in Ingersoll, Ontario, is seen in this file photo.

Dave Chidley/CP

Talks on a new contract for workers at a General Motors Co. plant in Ingersoll, Ont., have hit a stalemate.

The Canadian Auto Workers union, which represents about 2,500 workers at Cami Automotive Inc. who make Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers, has cancelled a meeting scheduled for Sunday that was to include a potential ratification vote on a new deal.

"On the economic front, on a lot of issues, we've got a lot of work to do," CAW president Ken Lewenza said Friday.

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There is no possibility of a strike because the talks between GM and the union were designed to reach an early agreement ahead of the scheduled expiry of the contract this September.

Mr. Lewenza said he plans to meet with senior GM human resources officials next week to see "if we can move the economic end of the battle."

One of the key issues, he said, involves temporary workers. In negotiations with GM last fall, the union was able to convince the auto maker to make temporary workers at its Oshawa, Ont., operations permanent.

"At Cami these folks came in on the third shift … and we're trying to shore them up and right now we're having a hell of a time," he said.

The temporary workers, known as supplementary work force employees, receive wages that are about $24 an hour or about 70 per cent of the base wage rates of permanent employees. They also receive minimal benefits and are excluded from GM's defined benefit pension plans.

The concept of supplementary work force employees was introduced in 2006. They were originally designed to help with launches of new vehicles, but the CAW has been trying during several rounds of negotiations to put limits on GM's use of such workers.

There are about 350 such workers at Cami.

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Running on three shifts and overtime, the plant produced the second-highest number of vehicles among GM's assembly plants in North America last year with the Equinox and Terrain among the hottest-selling vehicles in the company's lineup in both Canada and the United States.

In the midst of negotiations with the union, GM announced that it will invest $250-million at the plant to make it more flexible so it can make different vehicles as consumer tastes change.

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About the Author
Auto and Steel Industry Reporter

Greg Keenan has covered the automotive and steel industries for The Globe and Mail since 1995. He also writes about broader manufacturing trends. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto and of the University of Western Ontario School of Journalism. More


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