The investment in the Ontario plant is contingent upon union ratification “and confirmation of government support,” according to a statement issued by GM Canada.
“GM Canada is engaged in discussion with the Ontario and federal governments regarding its new investments and looks forward to working closely with Unifor following ratification of the tentative 2021 agreement,” the GM statement said.
Unifor successfully negotiated new contracts last year with all of the Detroit Three automakers with overwhelming support by the rank-and-file during ratification votes.
“We have always been at the table to support Canadian auto workers across the entire supply chain,” Francois-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s new minister of innovation, science and industry, said in a statement. “Should Unifor members choose to ratify the agreement, our government is ready to work with General Motors of Canada to confirm our support and to quickly get this investment to the finish line.”
GM’s proposed $1-billion investment “would create Canada’s first large-scale commercial electric vehicle manufacturing plant,” Premier Doug Ford and Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli said in a joint statement Saturday.
“Our government will continue to work alongside our federal counterparts, the auto industry and its workers to create the right conditions to protect and grow good quality “Ontario Made” auto sector jobs over the long-term, and ensure it remains healthy, sustainable and competitive in the decades to come.”
The company said work would begin immediately to transform the CAMI plant.
“This will support jobs and transform work at the plant over the next two years from Chevrolet Equinox production to a new focus on the production of EV600s, to serve the growing North American market for electric delivery solutions,” GM Canada said.
A GM spokesperson wouldn’t say where Equinox production would move, saying that the company is now focused on getting a ratified deal. The Equinox is also currently built at two plants in Mexico.
GM’s BrightDrop brand will offer electric products, software and services, GM said Tuesday. Its products will include a commercial van known as the EV600 and an electric pallet called the EP1, which allows delivery drivers to more easily transport goods from the vehicle to customers’ doors.
Umifor sees GM’s plans for BrightDrop as “groundbreaking,” said Dias, adding that the commercial vehicle business would bring stability to the plant as home deliveries continue to become more commonplace.
“The pandemic has changed how we’re going to live our lives,” Dias said. “This is going to be a long-term thing as it relates to consumer changes.”
The union said more details about the tentative agreement will be presented to Unifor Local 88 members at an online ratification meeting scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 17. Results of the ratification vote are scheduled to be released Monday, Jan. 18.
Dias said the tentative contract follows the economic pattern set by new contracts with the Detroit Three automakers last year, though he declined to offer specifics until after the ratification meeting. Those contracts included wage gains, a reduction in the wage grow-in period for new hires and several bonuses, as well as $4.9 billion in investment pledges from the companies.
He said the number of people employed at CAMI would remain “comparable” to today’s employment figures. According to Unifor, about 1,900 workers are employed at CAMI.
“If things go well based off the demographics of the plant and based on volume, we may very well be hiring toward the last part of 2023 and early 2024,” he said.
Dias said the tentative contract would last through September 2024. CAMI is on a separate contract from other unionized GM Canada facilities, including Oshawa Assembly and the St. Catharines Propulsion Plant.
The two sides reaching an early deal stands in stark contrast to 2017 talks, when workers went on a month-long strike at CAMI in an effort to have GM designate the plant as the lead producer of the Equinox. The strike ended after GM threatened to move Equinox production out of CAMI altogether.
Unifor’s “relationship with General Motors has changed significantly” over the last several months, Dias said.