Ingersoll, Ont. CAMI workers will closely watch GM bargaining

With 'Big Three' pattern bargaining complete with Ford and Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors is the next target for Unifor.

Next week, negotiators from both sides will sit down in Toronto with the goal of signing a new agreement.

It’s expected Unifor will push for the same wage and benefit plans already secured with Ford and Fiat-Chrysler.

The union is also expected to seek investment in GM’s Canadian automotive facilities, similar to the $2 billion Ford commitment and the $1.5 billion Fiat-Chrysler has committed.

But GM bargaining, in Canada, will be different this time around.

For the first time, the now closed Oshawa Assembly plant will not be part of talks.

That leaves only the parts and metal stamping in Oshawa, along with the transmission plant in St. Catherines and the parts plant in Woodstock at the table.

Ingersoll Unifor Local 88 President Joe Graves, and CAMI Plant Chair Mike Van Boekel, will also be there, but their roles will be different.

The reason is that unlike the rest of GM Canada, unionized CAMI workers have one year left on their four-year contract.

“So they don’t have, right now, in the master bargaining committee, an assembly plant like ours. We are part of the GM family, but not the master agreement,” Graves says.

In the past, Graves says, watching pattern bargaining take place for other plants has worked both for and against his membership.

“We benefited out of the big three pattern bargaining, in that we got all the wages and benefits they did.”

But in its 2017 negotiations CAMI was hit by a four-week strike.

It ended, soon after GM threatened to move more production of the Chevrolet Equinox to Mexico.

Unifor was able to secure jobs, but not significant investment.

But with Ford and Fiat-Chrysler agreeing to spend billions in Canada, Graves is hopeful CAMI will benefit in the near future.

“Our members are well deserved of some sort of product, when that comes, hopefully close to our contract time.”

Without question, COVID-19 continues to impact the auto industry. The workforce is smaller at CAMI, but until now, Graves says, retirements and shift modification have eased the pain.

Three shifts remain for the 2,000 unionized workers.

Graves adds he does not believe the coming talks will lead to another strike situation for his membership.

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