Hundreds more General Motors Canada employees have been temporarily laid off due to the ongoing United Auto Workers’ strike against GM in the United States.
About 700 workers of the 1,100 at the St. Catharines, Ont., Propulsion Plant have been told to stay home this week. The V8 and V6 engines they build and export to the United States aren’t needed because 49,000 UAW members struck the automaker’s U.S. operations.
“We’re focused on transmissions in St. Catharines right now…primarily for CAMI,” GM Canada spokesman David Paterson said.
GM Canada assembles the Chevrolet Equinox at its CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont. The Equinox is the automaker’s fourth most-popular vehicle in Canada, behind the Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra and Chevy Blazer. It’s also one of GM’s most popular vehicles in the United States, trailing only the Sierra in total sales through the first half of 2019.
While a few hundred workers in St. Catharines continue to make transmissions for the Equinox, another 100 or so at GM Canada’s Oshawa, Ont., plant continue stamping panels for the vehicle, Paterson said.
“St. Catharines and Oshawa are open, supporting CAMI, which is helpful,” Paterson said. “We’re doing everything we can to keep our people on the job.”
About 5,000 workers, including those at supply plants, in Canada have been put on leave due to the strike, according to Unifor, the union that represents employees at GM Canada’s plants.
All vehicle production at Oshawa stopped Friday. Workers there complete final assembly of previous-model Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks. They also assemble the Chevrolet Impala on a separate line.
“We have seen disruption of our vehicle assembly work at the Oshawa Assembly Plant due to the UAW strike. We plan to resume these operations as quickly as possible upon resolution of the UAW strike,” GM Canada spokeswoman Jennifer Wright said in a statement Friday.
The company stopped truck production on Sept. 17, sending about 1,200 hourly workers home due to a lack of parts. Workers in Oshawa complete final assembly of the previous-model Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, which are shipped to Oshawa from a plant in Indiana.
Jerry Dias, national president for Canadian union Unifor, said thousands of workers at parts suppliers have also been laid off in Canada.
Unifor Local 222 President Colin James, who represents workers at GM Oshawa, said once production at Oshawa stops, another 1,700 members of his local who work at nearby supply plants will be temporarily laid off, too.
“Anybody who supplies one of those 30 assembly plants shut down in the U.S. or GM lines shut down here, the production capacity that supplies them is sitting and waiting,” said Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association. “I think everybody is a little bit surprised that we’re still talking about this in the second week.”
Canadian supplier Magna International said in a statement Monday that about half its divisions in Canada and the United States have been affected by the strike, “some more than others based on the amount of GM specific business at each location.”
“Magna is a supplier to GM on a number of programs globally and, as such, we have started to experience sporadic temporary layoffs at various locations in both Canada and the U.S.,” the company said. “In lieu of layoffs, some of our divisions have been able to offer training and/or conduct maintenance and inventory to help mitigate the downtime in the short term.
‘Where necessary, other plants have implemented short-term temporary layoffs on GM specific programs and lines.”
Magna said it will continue to monitor the dispute between GM and the UAW and that it’s encouraged to see both sides continuing to work towards an agreement.
The strike also led to an immediate halt in production of the Buick, GMC, Cadillac and Chevrolet models assembled in the U.S. for Canadian sale. They include the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups— the automaker's top-selling vehicles in Canada — both of which are built in Flint, Mich. GM Canada's Oshawa assembly plant only builds the outgoing models of those two trucks. Other U.S. vehicle production affected by the strike includes the Buick Enclave and Chevy Traverse, assembled in Lansing, Mich.
Paterson on Monday said the Canadian dealer network remains fully stocked and hasn’t yet been affected by the strike.
Meanwhile, Automotive News in Detroit reported Monday that some General Motors customers in the United States with broken, recalled and accident-damaged cars may already be feeling the effects of the UAW strike as replacement parts take longer to reach dealers and the independent repair shops they supply.
A red banner on the top of the GM Parts Direct homepage reads: "Due to the UAW GM Strike, there is a delay receiving parts for all GM dealers across the United States. Your order may experience a longer processing time."
Paterson said GM Canada has its own parts distribution network and warehouses, none of which has been affected by the strike.
“They’re still pretty resilient and doing pretty well,” Paterson said. “We’re not experiencing any significant delays or problems for Canadian dealers at this point.”
Bloomberg contributed to this report.