In a major development that analysts have adjudged a historic move, Unifor members have voted to approve General Motors Canada’s plan to invest $1 billion in an electric vehicle plant in southern Ontario.
According to reports, the union’s 1,900 Local 88 members voted online on a tentative deal with the automaker to transform GM’s CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ont., into a hub for producing electric commercial delivery vans.
According to the union, members voted about 91 per cent in favour of the deal and that work will begin immediately to ready the plant to begin van production in November.
Remarking on the development, Ingersoll mayor Ted Comiskey said “This is fantastic for a town our size, and it does not come by easily, it comes from hard work by the union”.
The mayor averred that the investment is great because it also comes with 12 to 15 years of job security at the plant.
Joe Graves, UNIFOR Local 88 president said “It is different, but hopefully it’s very successful, and there are other components of the vehicle that hopefully will come into our plant and hopefully be successful for some time”.
Records have it that the industry has been hit hard over the last decade as automakers cut jobs in the province and production work flowed to the U.S. and Mexico. It was disclosed that Unifor has spent much of the last year striking deals with GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler that will pump $6 billion into Canada’s auto manufacturing industry.
An elated Graves continued that “It’s great for the community because if anything were to happen to this plant, Ingersoll would be devastated”.
Similarly, a statement by Mike Van Boekel, chair of Unifor’s master bargaining committee said “The stakes going into these negotiations were high with the (Chevrolet) Equinox program ending, and there wasn’t a time during these difficult negotiations that we were not thinking about our members and their families”.
On his part, Unifor national president Jerry Dias credited the deal to hard work by the local bargaining unit and collaboration with the Ontario and federal governments despite complications due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement, Dias said “To achieve this level of commitment for auto manufacturing shows what can happen when we have a collective vision to secure this sector and create good jobs for Canadians”.
With the Ingersoll plant wrapping up Chevrolet Equinox production in 2023, the plan also comes as GM is trying to transform its business to focus more on electric vehicles.
Recently, the automaker unveiled an updated logo focused on electric vehicles and made headlines at the CES technology trade show. Scott Bell, GM Canada president said it was a good sign that Canada was identified as the home of the new electric van just three days after GM announced the new venture.
In a statement, Bell said “GM Canada engineers in Markham and Oshawa were instrumental in the early stages of ideation and testing of this truly innovative solution for the massive global delivery industry”.
“With more than $2 billion in new combined investments announced for Oshawa, St. Catharines and Ingersoll, we are standing up as one of Canada’s most confident investors.”
According to the President, the mayors of the Ontario communities, as well as the union and nearby universities, helped move along the Canadian investments. Also, Bell said GM’s vision aligns with the Canadian government’s “leadership in addressing electricity prices, industrial taxes.”
In another reaction, Federal Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne in a statement said the government will work with the company on the project and that it is “prepared to support the future of Canada’s auto sector.”
On their part, the investments from GM and other automakers, stated that Champagne, “demonstrate clearly that our government’s policies, working alongside our partners in industry and labour, are driving historic private sector investment.”