September 17, 2016 / 3:27 PM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 2-GM, Canada union continue final talks, no indication of progress

(New throughout, adds background and lack of comment from car company)

By Ethan Lou

TORONTO, Sept 17 (Reuters) - General Motors Co and the Canadian union Unifor kept negotiating on Saturday, divided ahead of a looming strike deadline over union demands that the U.S. carmaker commit to new vehicle models at its Oshawa, Ontario, plant.

Unifor President Jerry Dias, determined to keep GM from moving jobs out of Canada, said Saturday morning there had been no significant progress. Later in a midday update, the union gave no indication of the status of the talks.

The four-year contract covering the workers of GM, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ford Motor Co in the province of Ontario expires on Monday. The union chose GM as its strike target for contract talks, with any deal setting the pattern for the next round of talks with the other manufacturers.

Contract talks could save 2,500 jobs at GM’s Oshawa car assembly or take the plant one step closer to closure.

Canada has been struggling to get new investment from automakers in its once-thriving car industry, losing out to the southern United States and lower-cost Mexico.

Between 2001 and 2013, some 14,300 jobs were lost in vehicle manufacturing in Canada, according to the Automotive Policy Research Center in Hamilton, Ontario.

There are no obvious products that would go into GM’s Oshawa plant and the automaker has previously said it will only make future product decisions after a labor deal.

Pensions and wages are also on the table. Still, the union has said it will not sign without a vehicle commitment, calling it pivotal for the future of Canada’s auto industry.

Speaking at a Toronto hotel before the day’s talks began, Dias said he was cognizant of the looming strike deadline. Without a deal, the union’s 3,900 GM members would legally be considered on strike as of midnight EDT (0400 GMT) Tuesday.

GM was already on the verge of shutting one of two assembly lines at its Oshawa plant, with several vehicles either produced in another country or expected to move in 2017.

The automaker declined to comment, referring to its Friday statement that it was focused on reaching a “mutually beneficial and competitive new agreement.”

A strike at Oshawa, which assembles the Chevrolet Impala, Buick Regal and Cadillac XTS sedans as well as some other overflow work, would not cause much hardship for GM.

But if workers at its Ingersoll, Ontario, CAMI plant support the strike and refuse to install engines and transmissions diverted from U.S. or Mexican plants, it would be more damaging for GM. The CAMI plant assembles GM’s strong-selling Chevrolet Equinox and the GMC Terrain. Workers there have the same union but a different contract.

The U.S. United Auto Workers has said it will support its Canadian counterpart, but declined to say whether it would refuse work at American GM plants in the event of a strike north of the border.

Reporting by Ethan Lou in Toronto, editing by G Crosse and Nick Zieminski

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