The strike, which started late Sunday, will cut production of the Chevrolet Equinox, a key sport utility vehicle that the automaker just redesigned for the first time in seven years.
Unifor, which represents about 6,500 GM workers in Canada, said it wanted the Detroit-based automaker to give the plant another vehicle to build in place of the GMC Terrain, which was moved to Mexico earlier this year, costing the plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, 600 jobs. The union has been battling to stop a wave of auto jobs and investment moving to cheaper locations south of the border.
The union said it was urging GM to designate the Ingersoll plant, which has more than 3,000 employees, the lead producer of the Chevrolet Equinox, its top-selling SUV model. The Equinox is produced in both Canada and Mexico.
“If you can’t keep your jobs when you have the best plant in the world, then you’ve got a problem,” Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, said. The plant has won several quality awards from JD Power and is recognised as one of the most productive plants in the world, the union said.
“This is really now about us saying, ‘Enough, you just gave us a solid blow with the Terrain and we’re not absorbing another one.”’
Mr Dias has emerged as the face for labour during renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement, pushing for higher working standards in both the US and Mexico.
Under Nafta, Mexico’s light vehicle production more than tripled, from 1.1m units in 1994 to about 3.5m units in 2016, according to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Canada, meanwhile, lost more than 53,000 automotive jobs from 2001 to 2014, according to a study by the Automotive Policy Research Centre.
The Ingersoll factory was excluded from the labour agreements that Unifor struck with US auto firms last year that secured more investment in Canada.
GM agreed to invest $554m (€380.5m) in its other Canadian operations, which include an assembly plant, and an engine factory.