Union estimates 400 workers will depart next week from the Ingersoll plant
Workers stream out of the CAMI plant in Ingersol which has just been hit with a notice of permanent layoff of 600 workers by GM which is moving production of one of their vehicles to Mexico. The CAMI plant produces the Equinox and the Terrain, photo was taken on Friday January 27, 2017. (MIKE HENSEN, The London Free Press)
Cami is bracing for the loss of one of its vehicles, and about 400 layoffs, as the Canadian auto market is on pace to set a sales record.
Cami, owned by GM Canada, is shifting its Terrain production to Mexico. The last Terrain will roll off the line at Cami next week, said Mike Van Boekel, chairperson of Unifor Local 88 representing workers at the Ingersoll plant.
Cami is losing a share of its workers as well. The automaker announced in January that it was slashing 625 jobs. But the number of workers who will be laid off has been reduced because some workers are taking buyouts and retirement packages and Cami lowered the total because “there is more work here than they thought,” Van Boekel said.
Turmoil at Cami contrasts with a projection that more than two million vehicles will be sold this year in Canada — an all-time high.
“It is tough, people are getting laid off, the Terrain is done. There is a sour mood here,” Van Boekel said.
Local manufacturers played a role in the sale of more than a million vehicles in Canada in the first six months of the year, said Carlos Gomes, an auto analyst with Scotiabank.
Sales in the U.S. for the Cami-made Equinox were up 11 per cent in the first six months of 2017 over the same period last year, 134,000 compared to 121,000.
Sale of Toyota’s RAV4, some of which are assembled in Woodstock, increased 11 per cent to 185,000 in the first six months of the year compared with 166,000 last year.
Toyota’s Cambridge plant also assembles Corolla vehicles but production of the compact car is shifting to Mexico for 2020. It will assemble RAV4s at the plant losing the Corolla.
Cami will be on summer shutdown the last two weeks of July. It was slated to shut down earlier this month but pushed back to end Terrain production.
“When we come back, there will only be the Equinox,” Van Boekel said of the compact SUV.
Adding to rising tension at the plant, workers open talks in September with GM Canada on a new collective agreement, and the union is talking tough.
“We are looking for increases across the board, in every area,” Van Boekel said, despite the loss of the Terrain.
“It will not change our demands, put it that way. We won’t be intimidated by layoff, or loss of a vehicle. Not at all,” he said.
“We have done everything we could, we have worked six days a week for eight years. We have been awfully good to Cami.”
As for the national auto outlook, vehicle sales in Canada are forecast to rise about five per cent this year over last, when 1.9 million were sold, pushing the total above the two million mark, Gomes said.
“The reality is economic activity is doing very well in this country, we had growth of 1.5 per cent in 2016, and the projection for this year is 2.7 per cent,” he said.
“The oil and gas sector is coming back in Western Canada, Ontario is doing well and B.C. is solid. There is broad-based improvement across all regions.”
The U.S. market is stable in retail sales, dropping only two per cent this year from the year before, but fleet sales dropped eight per cent driving down the sales total south of the border.
“The retail market is down there only very slightly,” Gomes said.
As car sales hold steady, sales of crossover vehicles have increased. That’s a good sign for Ontario where CUVs and SUVs are made at the Chrysler plant in Windsor, Cami, Toyota, Honda in Alliston and Ford in Oakville.
Car sales in the U.S. are down 12 per cent for the first six months of this year, over 2016, to 3.1 million, while crossovers are up seven per cent, to 2.8 million.
“It is clearly a dramatic shift in that market,” Gomes said.