Union leader supports changing NAFTA amid GM layoffs
Unifor President Jerry Dias on Friday voiced support for President Donald Trump’s plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The Canadian labor leader’s backing of the president’s plans followed General Motors Co. confirming it will lay off more than 600 people later this year at its CAMI Assembly Plant in Ingersoll, Ontario. The facility currently employs about 3,200 people on three shifts.
“I disagree (with) Trump on so many things but one thing I do agree with him on is that NAFTA has been a disaster for American and Canadian workers,” Dias told The Detroit News on Friday. “It’s clear. I am anxious to renegotiate NAFTA ... and this is just another example.”
The layoffs are expected to occur when the company ends production of the current-generation Equinox, according to GM spokesman Tom Wickham. The layoffs, which Dias says will occur at the end of July, come as the company plans to end production of the current GMC Terrain at CAMI. The next-generation of the vehicle, which was unveiled at the 2017 North American International Auto Show, will be produced at a plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
Wickham said the layoffs are not a direct result of 2018 Terrain production moving to Mexico but an expected decline in overall production at the facility for the old Equinox. Dias disagrees.
“The announcement is as a result of both,” Dias said, adding the company plans to cut 90,000 units out of CAMI between the Equinox and Terrain. “If they weren’t moving the Terrain to Mexico than we wouldn’t be having this problem.”
Production of the next-generation Equinox has already started at CAMI and is not impacted by the layoffs, Wickham said. The 2018 vehicle — unveiled in September — also is being built at two facilities in Mexico.
CAMI was not part of the Detroit Three negotiations last fall when Unifor was able to secure more than $1.5 billion in investment for production and jobs.
GM had already confirmed the production moves but not the layoffs. Wickham said the company will manage the layoffs in accordance with its contract with Unifor, which expires later this year.
Dias said “nobody saw this coming” leading into the summer negotiations, citing the only solution to keep the jobs is for GM to not move the Terrain out of CAMI.
“This is NAFTA; this is exactly the debate that has been going on in the United States,” he said.
GM declined to comment on the possibility of ceasing plans to move production of the Terrain out of CAMI.
The union leader’s support comes a day after the White House said Trump would consider paying for a border wall with Mexico — estimated to cost up to $15 billion — by imposing a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico.
If Trump proposed such a plan and if it was approved by Congress, it would deal a blow to Detroit’s three automakers, which have factories in Mexico that export vehicles not only to foreign countries but also to the United States. It is among a buffet of options under consideration, administration officials stressed later Thursday.
GM as well numerous other automakers have said they do not plan to change any plans at the moment due to Trump’s potential tariffs and reorganization of NAFTA.
Ford earlier this month, however, did announce it would cancel plans to establish a $1.6 billion plant in Mexico to build the Ford Focus.
Ford was repeatedly criticized on the campaign trail by then-presidential-candidate Trump for its plans to build a plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, for the next-generation Focus. Instead, it will build the car at an existing Mexico factory.
Ford President and CEO Mark Fields cited the company’s recent decision on a shift in buyer preferences as compact car sales have fallen. But he said factors included the pro-business environment it sees in the U.S. amid proposed policies under Trump.
Trump also previously criticized GM via Twitter for its plans to build the Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback at a plant in Mexico.
GM CEO Mary Barra, speaking to reporters earlier this month, said the automaker did not plan to change its Cruze production plans, which have been in place for some time.