Unifor president says CAMI labour dispute represents everything wrong with NAFTA

The Unifor Local 88 master bargaining team delivers an update to their striking automotive workers on October 1st, 2017.
The Unifor Local 88 master bargaining team delivers an update to their striking automotive workers on October 1st, 2017. Christian D'Avino / AM980

The talks are far from over, but Unifor president Jerry Dias says they will not concede defeat to General Motors in the CAMI labour dispute.

More than 2,000 striking automotive workers gathered in front of the CAMI Ingersoll Plant to hear from Unifor Local 88 president and chair Mike Van Boekel.

Proceedings began just shortly after 11 a.m. Sunday, with Van Boekel reading a letter sent by General Motors to the master bargaining team on their most recent discussions.

READ MORE: GM not meeting labour concerns in Detroit over CAMI strike: Unifor

“It talks about how good we are, how great we’ve been,” Van Boekel said of the letter.

“The last two sentences say, ‘should business conditions or needs change, the company will consider all factors, including potential impacts on CAMI Assembly and its employees, prior to deciding on how to address those changing conditions.'”

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The letter concludes, Van Boekel says, with the automaker noting it maintains complete discretion on how to address business conditions and needs, and where those needs will be built.

“That is not okay with us, it’s not even close,” Van Boekel said.

Unifor President Jerry Dias called a contract offer made Saturday by GM Canada “fluff.” The offer wasn’t good enough because it still allowed the company to shift its resources away from the Ingersoll plant, he said.

A contract offer made by the union was also rejected by the automaker.

“Ultimately, the reason they won’t give us the security we ask for, is because when the market inevitably dips, they want to eliminate jobs here and give them to Mexico. But I tell all of you here today, we are not going to let that happen,” Dias said to the crowd.

Dias tells AM980 that the ongoing labour dispute has superseded a regular labour dispute.

“This is really about Canadian jobs and American jobs migrating to Mexico, because quite frankly, the Mexican industrial strategy exploits its citizens. NAFTA is playing out here today in Ingersoll and we need to fix it.”

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READ MORE: Striking CAMI employees feel optimistic with union reps back at the table

Dias adds that he thinks it is the best plant in the world, despite the loss of 500 jobs. He adds he believes the production quality of their plant is the main reason why General Motors is hesitant to pull the plug on the workers.

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Dias said the union wouldn’t back any deals unless they were confident more jobs wouldn’t be shifted to Mexico.

The strike began when members of Unifor Local 88 walked out on Sept. 17 as negotiators worked to have General Motors designate the plant as the lead producer of the Equinox sport utility vehicle.

– With files from The Canadian Press