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Length of CAMI strike ‘has surprised just about everybody’

After 25 days on the picket lines, the CAMI strike that many predicted would be over in a matter of weeks, has dragged on longer than most people expected.

The nearly month long labour dispute began when unionized workers walked out on Sept 17 over job security and General Motors’ future investment in the Ingersoll, Ont. factory, which produces the top selling Chevy Equinox.

When the strike began, analysts predicted the dispute would be over quickly because GM would be under pressure to get back to business in order to keep auto dealers topped up with a steady supply of vehicles amid surging sales.

“We weren’t sure how long it was going to be,” said Dan Borthwick, the president of Unifor local 88. “To say that it was going to be two weeks, one month or two months, there’s no set timeline.”

“There’s tremendous support on the line, but they are getting concerned on the length of the strike and the lack of communication from Detroit,” he said.

GM has ‘sufficient inventory’

It seems GM is taking a harder line on negotiations than most expected and the company told CBC News in a statement that it has a ‘sufficient’ supply of vehicles for sale, despite a 25-day-old strike that has crippled its top producing factory.

“We believe we have sufficient inventory and production to meet demand while negotiations continue and we continue to work closely with dealers to ensure customers continue to be well served,” GM spokeswoman Jennifer Wright wrote in an email to CBC News.

Some auto dealers are sounding bullish as well. Dan Cullen, a sales manager at Ray Cullen Chevrolet in London, Ont. said while his lot has sold out of 2017 models of the Chevy Equinox, he still has plenty of brand new models.

“We have over 80 new Equinoxes in stock, unheard of,” he said. “If we’re selling 10 to 15 a month, we still got a good four to five months worth of stock.”

‘I think GM is boasting’

Tony Faria

Tony Faria is the director of the Office of Automotive and Vehicle Research at the University of Windsor. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

“I think GM is boasting,” said Tony Faria, an auto industry analyst and the director of the Office of Automotive and Vehicle Research at the University of Windsor.

“I think GM is getting low on a good selling product,” he said. “That has to hurt, if they’re starting to lose sales of Equinox because it certainly is one of their biggest selling vehicles.”

Still, the auto analyst can’t explain why the strike has dragged on longer than most analysts predicted, including himself.

“I felt two weeks may be about it,” Faria said. “[The length] certainly has, I think, surprised just about everybody.”

“If it is true that GM is able to get enough units out of Mexico to satisfy their needs then yeah, Unifor has kind of shot themselves in the foot. Their big fear was that GM was going to move production to Mexico,” he said. “GM may have figured out, ‘yeah we can do that.'”

Faria said the other factor casting a shadow over the negotiations is a ultra-protectionist Whitehouse under Donald Trump and NAFTA renegotiations, which are going far worse than anyone could have anticipated.

“The auto companies have been setting up their supply chains for over 20 years now with the idea that there is a NAFTA and we can move parts and vehicles all around North America duty free,” he said.

“If NAFTA disappears that’s going to be a real crimp to the auto companies.”


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