Unifor President Jerry Dias says Canadian workers at General Motors CAMI assembly plant could stay on strike for a long time.

Dias told Automotive News "major philosophical differences" are keeping an agreement from being reached between Unifor and GM. Major concerns include GM's reluctance to designate CAMI as the Equinox's lead plant, despite it producing nearly 100,000 more cars than the pair of secondary plants in Mexico. The issue stems from the loss of GMC Terrain production earlier this year when it was shifted south of the Rio Grande and took 600 jobs from CAMI with it.

"This is one of GM's most profitable plants," Dias said. "They can't make a unilateral decision to take away the Terrain and lay off hundreds of people and be naive enough to think we won't have a reaction."



Local union leaders have said that talks were progressing well in the hours leading up to the strike deadline, but there was simply too much ground to cover in a short period of time. "We put our best foot forward, and we don't believe the company is serious about our membership's demands," Unifor Local 88 President Dan Borthwick said.

The union is adamant that the predicament is NAFTA's fault. Dias said GM is exploiting cheaper labor in Mexico at the expense of Canadian and American labor.

"No wonder we're digging in. This plant is the poster child for what's wrong with NAFTA, even when you're the best plant in the world," Dias said. "As long as they can build in Mexico for $2 an hour or less, they'll do that."

The strike is ill-timed for GM, as the Equinox is a top seller in the highly contentious compact crossover segment. In the US sales are up 17 percent, while Canada has seen a gain of 40 percent. GM's stock of available Equinoxs has been dwindling, with less than two months supply available as of September 1. Workers at the GM CAMI plant, a joint venture between the automaker and Suzuki until 2009, are on a separate contract from other GM plants in Canada, which received four-year labor contracts last year. GM committed to $554 million in investments at those plants over the duration of that contract.

Workers at CAMI are on a separate labor agreement than GM plants in Canada. The company committed $554 million in investment money to those plants, along with a new four-year labor agreement which was signed in September of last year.