GM looks for early contract talks at Ontario plant

Mon Jan 21, 2013 5:05pm EST
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By Susan Taylor

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian Auto Workers union is recommending workers at a General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) plant in southern Ontario accept GM's request to start bargaining for a new contract months ahead of the September expiration of the current deal in the hope that doing so will help secure jobs.

A union official said on Monday he believes GM wants the new contract so that it can lock in long-term costs before starting construction of a major addition at its Ingersoll, Ontario, plant.

The automaker has begun site preparation and moved "acres of dirt," said Mike Van Boekel, chairman of the Cami plant unit of Local 88 of the Canadian Auto Workers. Van Boekel believes the addition will house a welding shop, which would be a requirement for production of next-generation vehicles in two years' time.

The Cami plant, which last year produced more than 300,000 of GM's fast-selling Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers, employs about 2,700 hourly workers.

Production runs 24 hours a day, six days a week, with mandatory overtime, Van Boekel said, but still has not kept pace with demand.

There has been media speculation that production could move to Spring Hill, Tennessee, and Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, in 2015, Van Boekel said. GM said it has made no announcements about new products.

"GM has told us in meetings that they do plan on building where they sell, and GM is selling a lot of vehicles in Canada," Van Boekel said.

Workers will vote February 10 on whether to start talks early, and could vote on a new contract on March 24.   Continued...