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Labor Dispute Cripples Production of Hot-Selling Equinox

Supplies at creeping toward critical levels.

by on Sep.19, 2017

Unifor President Jerry Dias said it's time for GM to reward the workers in Ingersoll for working lean and putting out best-in-class quality products.

The strike at an assembly plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, has crippled production of one of GM’s hottest vehicles as negotiators from company and Unifor, the union representing some 3,000 workers, appear to have made little progress towards resolution to the unfolding dispute.

Unifor President Jerry Dias had said before the walkout began that workers would strike unless GM earmarked another vehicle for the CAMI plant in Ingersoll to replace GMC Terrain, which the automaker shifted to Mexico earlier this year. So far, GM hasn’t indicated it was prepared to meet the union’s demand.

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The strike by Unifor has cut production of the Chevrolet Equinox, which jumped 84.5% in the U.S. and by 33% in Canada during August. 

Overall, Equinox is the second-most-popular vehicle in GM’s entire product portfolio behind the Chevrolet Silverado, GM’s top-selling pickup truck. In fact, Equinox sales have topped sales of the entire Cadillac line and Buick’s line-up as well year to date.

(General Motors hit by Canadian strike. For the story, Click Here.)

GM sold 28,245 of the vehicles in the United States last month, to garner a 10.5% share of the compact utility market. Sales were up 20% month over month and 85% year over year. For 2017, Equinox sales are up 17% compared with the first eight months of 2016.

The strike at the Ingersoll, Ontario, plant is going to make it tougher and tougher to get a new Equinox.

Joe Langley, associate director, NA automotive production forecasts, IHS Markit, said in an e-mail to TheDetroitBureau.com that, “CAMI is under a separate contract than the other Detroit Three plants in Canada. Based on the work structure at the plant, IHS Markit estimates GM will lose 872 units a day of Equinox production.

“They build the Equinox at two other plants in Mexico, but they are still ramping up in those facilities. It is our expectation GM will want to get a deal done quickly since the new Equinox is one of the rare GM vehicles in lower supply and in demand,” Langley said.

Last year, Unifor won a commitment from GM that it would keep a plant in Oshawa, Ontario, open in part by shipping unfinished pickup truck bodies to that plant from Indiana. Workers in Oshawa would install interiors and perform final assembly of the vehicles.

(Click Here for more about the Ingersoll strike.)

The contract for CAMI workers has traditionally been separate from the other agreements Unifor has with the Detroit’s automakers because Ingersoll originally operated as a joint venture between GM and Japanese automaker Suzuki.

However, key economic provisions at CAMI were generally similar to those at GM, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and should have been relatively simple to duplicate any new agreement. The current impasse suggests that idling of some 600 CAMI workers and the union’s demand for a replacement product are at the heart of the dispute.

Mike Van Boekel, chairman of the Unifor bargaining, committee, also told reporters in London, Ontario, that union members viewed the layoffs as an intimidation tactic.

“They want to be rewarded for the last eight years of working six days a week, of being second-to-none in quality, in being among the leanest, most efficient plants in the world. They want to be recognized. The best word to describe the mood here now is frustration, it is very high. Workers feel there is no respect for the job they perform and how well they do it.”

(Canadian auto union blasts GM for moving work to Mexico. Click Here for the story.)

GM has fewer Equinox crossovers in stock in the U.S. than it did about a month ago. According to the Automotive News Data Center, U.S. dealers held about 53 days of Equinox supply on Sept. 1, well below the 74 days of stock they held on Aug. 1 and behind the average 82-day stock for all Chevrolet models.

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