Unifor, GM supplier Nemak end 2-week strike in Canada

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WINDSOR, Ont. — Unifor and Nemak, which supplies engine blocks to General Motors, have reached an agreement to end the union’s two-week strike at the company’s factory here, according to the union. 

Members of Unifor Local 200 returned to work for the 11 p.m. EDT shift Sunday, as expected. 

The parties agreed to the framework conditions Unifor proposed to Nemak late Saturday, including:

  • A timeline for negotiations regarding Nemak’s plans to close the plant in mid-2020;
  • An expedited arbitration process should a negotiated resolution prove unsuccessful;
  • It and Nemak will abide by the arbitration decision, regardless of the outcome, and;
  • Nemak will not discipline any Unifor member for any issues related to the dispute. 

The Nemak dispute has no direct connection with the UAW strike called on Sunday against General Motors, although Unifor President Jerry Dias has expressed support for the UAW’s efforts against GM. 

Unifor didn’t immediately detail the timeline for negotiations, but a spokesman said it is “essentially the same” as the proposal the union made to the company on Saturday. That’s when the union asked Nemak corporate officials to meet with Unifor over three dates within a 14-day period beginning Monday, Sept. 16.

The spokesman said the union agreed to “some minor changes” to the proposal.

Nemak officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Unifor Local 200 members walked off the job Labor Day and have been on the picket line ever since to protest the company’s plan to close the plant.

The employees build engine blocks for a Cadillac vehicle assembled in China, the I-6 engine blocks for the Chevrolet Silverado assembled in Flint, Mich., and the Corvette engine block and bedplate.

A GM spokesman on Friday told Automotive News Canada the strike in Windsor had “no impact” on Silverado or Corvette production.

When Nemak announced the pending closure in July, it said the decision came on the back of “the expected withdrawal from an export program by a client in China,” which would lead the plant to use less than 10 percent of its installed capacity by 2020. 

Nemak said the Windsor plant is now too small and too inefficient to remain open as the company expands elsewhere in the world. The company said it recently purchased larger businesses outside of Canada that came with existing plants and capacity.

The union claimed Nemak and Unifor “agreed that the Windsor plant would be the sole source for General Motors I-6 engine blocks and bedplates for the Corvette.” Unifor alleged Nemak has violated the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, which is set to expire in 2022.

Unifor says the closure is part of a plan to shift production to Mexico, where wages are a fraction of those in Canada.

Unifor on Saturday defied a court order to end its blockade by 11:59 p.m. that day. The decision flew in the face of Ontario Superior Court Justice Terrance Patterson, who on Friday fined the union $75,000. He ordered the union to deconstruct barriers and end the wildcat strike.

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