Mike Van Boekel recalls the heady early years of Chevrolet Equinox production at General Motors’ CAMI Assembly Plant, when dozens of half-finished crossovers were sent along Highway 401 each day to the Oshawa Assembly Plant 200 kilometres east.
“We would put five at a time on a trailer and send about three or four trailers every hour to Oshawa,” said Van Boekel, currently Unifor Local 88’s chairman for CAMI, located in Ingersoll, Ont. “And then Oshawa would paint them and trim them out.”
The shuttle program, as it was known, was set up to relieve the bursting pressure at CAMI.
Despite running three shifts and scheduled Saturday overtime, the plant could not keep up with voracious demand for the Equinox or CAMI’s other hit vehicle, the GMC Terrain. Trucking a couple of hundred extra Equinox bodies each day to Oshawa for final assembly helped boost GM’s output.
For workers at CAMI, the drastic measure was one of the program’s many high notes. “We worked six days, right through, for years and years, and that really became the norm in our plant,” Van Boekel said. “It was a great run. It provided great stability for members.”
Now, as one run ends, another is set to begin.