With No New Product Promised, GM Canada Workers Could Walk Off the Job at Midnight

GM Canada and the union representing Detroit Three autoworkers north of the border have entered their final day of contract talks ahead of a midnight strike deadline.

Unless both sides achieve a breakthrough today, there’s little reason to believe a walkout at the company’s Oshawa, Woodstock and St. Catharines, Ontario facilities won’t occur as the clock strikes twelve. 

A deal with Unifor hinges on new product commitment from GM Canada, especially for its Oshawa assembly plant. Product is drying up at the century-old plant, which could be shuttered within a couple of years if GM doesn’t allocate new vehicles to its two production lines.

As of yesterday, the product pipeline was still dry, even as Unifor president Jerry Dias put on a cautiously hopeful face.

“I’m feeling much better today than I did yesterday but I’m still not feeling great,” Dias told the Globe and Mail. “We are having some constructive conversations, finally.”

Last week, both sides were said to be far apart in negotiations, with little to no movement on the key bargaining issue. Despite Dias’ claims, a “high-ranking” union source told the newspaper that GM has not offered any new product for the Oshawa plant, which employs about 2,500 hourly workers.

Hampering the talks is the simple reality that GM has no product to send to Oshawa. The automaker’s roster of existing and planned vehicles are all allocated to other plants, while the Oshawa-built Chevrolet Impala, Buick Regal and Cadillac XTS (as well as overflow Chevrolet Equinox production) can easily be sent elsewhere.

GM is Unifor’s target company in this round of contract talks. Any agreement with that automaker will guide contract talks with the remaining two. In the event of a strike, GM Canada’s CAMI assembly plant, covered by a separate collective agreement, has vowed to not use replacement parts sent from U.S. plants. That could halt the production of Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers.