General Motors on Wednesday alerted leaders of Canada’s Unifor labor union that it will begin to wind down production of its popular Chevrolet Equinox sport utility vehicle at an Ontario factory unless employees there call off a month-long strike.
The strike has been fueled by union opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Unifor leader Jerry Dias informed Reuters on Wednesday that GM authorities said they would increase production of the vehicle at two plants in Mexico that construct the Equinox and a similar model, the GMC Terrain if the walkout is not cancelled.
“GM just informed us today that they are going to increase production in Mexico,” Unifor President Jerry Dias informed by phone from Washington. “They have declared war on Canada.”
GM has plants in the United States that are under-utilized, however retooling them to develop the Equinox would be costly.
GM prepares to study how rapidly essential suppliers to the Ontario Equinox plant could move their operations to accommodate a shift in the automobile’s production, a person knowledgeable about the discussions said on Wednesday.
GM’s decision to construct the Equinox and Terrain in Mexico is a significant concern in the contract dispute between the automaker and the Canadian union.
Dias stated he would not cancel the strike.
“This is the huge problem,” Dias stated of the strike. “As soon as we resolve this, everything else will fall into place.”
About 2,500 workers at a factory in Ingersoll, Ontario, strolled off the job on September 18 after GM turned down Unifor’s call for the automaker to designate the factory, called CAMI, as the lead production site for the Equinox in North America. The automaker spent $800 million to retool the plant for the new model.
The union likewise challenged GM’s choice to lay off 600 CAMI employees as it phased out production of the last-generation GMC Terrain SUV, and introduced production of new generation Terrain models in addition to the Equinox in Mexico.
The CAMI plant was forecasted to build about 210,000 vehicles in 2018, where as two plants in Mexico together were forecasted to develop about 150,000 vehicles next year, as per AutoForecast Solutions, a forecasting company.
Unifor’s Dias has blamed NAFTA for the job losses, complicating Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s effort to promote the advantages of open trade in reaction to U.S. President Donald Trump’s criticism of the deal.