BUSINESS

Ontario GM Plant Reaches Deal With Workers After 4-Week Strike

"We're ready to go back to work."

10/16/2017 16:16 EDT | Updated 10/16/2017 16:16 EDT
Dave Chidley/CANADIAN PRESS
Employees of the GM CAMI assembly factory stand on the picket line in Ingersoll, Ont., on Sept. 18, 2017.

Workers at General Motors' CAMI plant are ending their four-week strike after accepting a new contract Monday that includes higher compensation, financial penalties against GM for future layoffs and the preservation of production shifts.

The contract proposal was hammered out last week and Unifor, which represents 2,500 of the 2,800 workers affected at the plant in Ingersoll, Ont., had recommended the deal be accepted.

The union said almost 86 per cent of production workers and 79 per cent of tradesworkers approved the contract. About 2,400 workers voted.

"You never get everything you want but overall we're ready to go back to work," Mike Van Boekel, CAMI unit chairman for Local 88, said in an interview.

Dave Chidley/CANADIAN PRESS
The GM CAMI assembly factory parking lot sits empty as employees walk the picket line in Ingersoll, Ont., on Sept. 18, 2017.

While GM didn't agree to specific investments at the plant, CAMI will remain the main production centre for the Chevrolet Equinox, with three shifts.

The automaker threatened last week to shift more production to Mexico if a settlement wasn't reached swiftly and the two sides agreed to a deal on Friday.

"You want investment, you want future product, you want a bunch of stuff, but as long as we keep producing the way we are, I'd like to think our future is good," Van Boekel said.

Workers to receive $6,000 signing bonus

He said workers will receive two per cent wage increases in the first and fourth year of the deal, a $6,000 signing bonus and annual payments of $2,000 each Christmas.

The automaker will also be forced to pay $300 million for any future job cuts. About 400 workers are currently on layoff. Retirement packages will be offered to entice about 100 workers to leave their positions for laid-off colleagues.

Striking workers will start returning to the job at 11 p.m. Monday.

GM Canada said ratification of the agreement is welcome news for the company, employees and the community.

"We have an outstanding new product at CAMI with the Chevrolet Equinox and I am confident that we will quickly pull together to continue to demonstrate to the world the outstanding productivity, innovation and quality that is synonymous with the CAMI workforce," stated Steve Carlisle, president and managing director of General Motors Canada.

Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters
Steve Carlisle attends a news conference at a hotel in Bangkok in 2009.

He said the challenges resulting from the strike have been difficult on everyone.

"With the recent $800 million investment at the CAMI plant and this agreement, it is up to each of us to demonstrate the unparalleled value we deliver as leaders within Canada's auto sector," he added.

"I am confident that by working as one team, that will continue for years to come."

The new contract agreement comes as negotiators from Canada, the United States and Mexico toil over efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement amid U.S. demands for major concessions.

The U.S. wants all cars to include 85 per cent North American content to avoid a tariff, up from the current 62.5 per cent; 50 per cent of a car's content would have to come from the U.S.; and it would toughen the way content is calculated, with a list upgraded to include parts that didn't exist in 1994 when NAFTA was originally implemented.

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